The Pittsburgh Penguins closed out the regular season on the road today with a 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. With the loss, the Penguins ceded claim of the Eastern Conference title to the Canadiens by finishing with 102-points (47-27-8 ), 2-points behind Montreal (47-25-10). The Penguins will face an injury riddled Ottawa Senators in Round 1. Team Captain Sidney Crosby did not play in the game, apparently being rested for the playoffs as he continues to recover from a high ankle sprain. The Penguins added Gary Roberts (broken leg) and Kris Beech (broken wrist) back into the lineup after extended absences by both players due to injury.
The Penguins and Flyers played a largely lackluster game, with the exception of a few brilliant saves by both goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Martin Biron. The game lacked the intensity and emotion that existed in the last matchup on Wednesday night. Fleury gave up 1-goal on 21-shots, with the 2nd Flyers goal coming on the empty net. At 18:30 of the 2nd, Scott Upshall lifted the puck over Fleury to make the score 1-0. Mike Knuble and Jeff Carter were credited with the assists. The 2nd goal came at 19:07 from Mike Knuble as Fleury sat at the bench for the extra attacker. Jeff Carter got the assist on the empty netter.
The Penguins power play was fully ineffective as they failed to convert on 9 man-advantage opportunities. To their credit, they successfully killed off 5-penalties of their own. The Penguins were outshot 6-4 in the 1st and 10-8 in the 2nd, but bested the Flyers 8-6 in the final frame. With 2-minutes left in the 3rd, it appeared as if the Penguins would get a power play opportunity as Coburn hooked Evgeni Malkin and sent him to the ice. However, the referees made a questionable diving call on Malkin to make it 4-on-4 for the remainder of the game with the Penguins best player in the box.
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The win advanced the Philadelphia Flyers into 6th place where they will take on the Southeast Division Champion Washington Capitals, as opposed to the Penguins had they lost the game. The Penguins will meet the Ottawa Senators in a reprise from last season’s Stanley Cup Playoff Quarterfinals. However, the dynamics will certainly be different this time around. First off, the Penguins have added more depth to their team from last year, and are no longer a single line team. Secondly, the team, while still very young, know better what to expect in the post-season than they did last year. Last year, most of the team was playing in their first ever playoff appearance. Third, while the Penguins have struggled with injuries all year long, they are now almost 100% healthy as the playoffs commence. For the Senators, they will be facing adversity as they play round 1 without three key forwards — captain Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly. Finally, the Penguins will enter the series with the home ice advantage riding on the hot glove of Marc-Andre Fleury who finished the season 10-2-1 after coming back from an extended absence with a high ankle sprain.
The Penguins will host the Senators for the first game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs either Wednesday or Thursday this week. NHLPens.com will post a series preview in the coming days, so please be sure to check back.