The Pittsburgh Penguins kept their late season momentum rolling into the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as they beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 in game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Wednesday night. In a nearly textbook win, the Penguins flat outplayed the Flyers who looked as if they were still disoriented from the unexpected loss to the New York Rangers at the end of the regular season that squandered their home ice advantage. The Penguins, on the other hand, clearly came out prepared to play and took it to the Flyers for nearly 60-minutes, particularly in the first and third periods. Although game stats indicate that the Penguins were outhit by the Flyers 37-30, Pittsburgh appeared to have the more punishing physical presence. It started on the very first shift as Chris Kunitz lined up and pummelled Kimmo Timonen. Timonen, rattled by the hit, exhibited the after-effects throughout the remainder of the game and didn’t look 100% . The hits continued with Matt Cooke reaking havoc in the corners and Jordan Staal even getting into the act and making his imposing presence felt.
Pittsburgh overwhelmed the Flyers defense by maintaining constant pressure and good puck possession that slowly wore down the seemingly demoralized Flyers. Philadelphia didn’t help their cause any by taking far too many penalties. The Penguins had 6 man-advantages before going 5-on-3 for the final 19-seconds of the game. The Penguins only converted on 1 powerplay, otherwise the score would have been much more lopsided. The Penguins got goals from Sidney Crosby, Tyler Kennedy, Evgeni Malkin and….yes, Mark Eaton! Both Crosby and Malkin had 2-points with a goal and assist each. Sergei Gonchar, Jordan Staal and Kris Letang all picked up assists as well. The lone Flyers goal came on a Philadelphia power play after Marc-Andre Fleury was called for tripping. The Penguins outshot the Flyers 33-27 and crushed them in the faceoff circle by winning 64% of the draws.
Jordan Staal played an amazing game at both ends of the ice. Leading all Penguins’ forwards in ice time with 20:36, he stepped up his physical play and was an absolute defensive juggernaut against the Flyers. Mark Eaton made the defensive play of the game by eliminating a two-on-one opportunity in the first period to protect the Penguins 1-0 lead. With Mike Richards and Scott Hartnell breaking in on net, Eaton dropped to the ice and diverted Richard’s attempted pass to neutralize one of the the Flyers’ best scoring chances of the game. Evgeni Malkin got the game’s only unassisted goal as he corraled an errant pass and backhanded it past a sprawling Martin Biron before raising his arms into the air like Philly’s Rocky Balboa.
Dan Bylsma captured his first career post-season win as a head coach. After the game he noted “”One of our goals was to set the tone and certainly after the first period …
I think the whole period long we forced them to play in the defensive zone a lot, which is one of the situations we want to keep replicating.” Whatever Dan Bylsma is doing to lead, coach and inspire this young team, let’s hope he can keep it up! Tonight’s game was a thing of beauty for a Penguins fan!