Pens Lose Ugly Battle to Flyers

The Pittsburgh Penguins lost their 3rd straight game in ugly fashion tonight as the Philadelphia Flyers won by a score of 5-2.  This marks the Penguins 5th loss in their last 6 games and should send a message through the locker room and the management offices of the Penguins.  Whatever is going on behind the scenes in Pittsburgh, it is not working.  Every team faces adversity now and again, and their character is defined by how they respond.  So far, this team has not responded well.  There has to be something amiss in the locker room, either with the players, the coaching, or both.  Whatever it is, the management and coaching staff had better address it now and get the club on the right track before the chance at a decent season becomes unrecoverable.     

The woes started early in the first period as the Penguins took a bench penalty for too many men just 31 seconds into the game.  How this constantly recurring communication issue has not been addressed and fixed by the coach is beyond me.  The Flyers made the Penguins pay for their lack of bench communication at 1:31 on a power play goal by Kimmo Timonen, with assists by Briere and Lupul.  Although Timonen was credited with the goal, video replay showed the puck going into the net off the back of Fleury after a failed clearing attempt by Mark Eaton.  The Flyers struck again on the power play at 7:51 while Gary Roberts sat for a roughing minor.  Mike Knuble capitalized on the penalty with assists from Briere and Timonen.  At the end of the first, the Flyers led by a score of 2-0 and had a 10-7 advantage in shots on goal.

In the second period, Joffrey Lupul netted a power play goal at 5:40 while Sergei Gonchar sat for a hooking call.  Mike Richards and Kimmo Timonen were credited with the assists.  The Penguins finally struck back at 8:39 on an even strength goal by Evgeni Malkin off from a patient pass by Ryan Whitney.  Sidney Crosby was also credited with an assist to keep Malkin’s and Crosby’s point streaks alive.  Then, with just 0.2 seconds left in the period, Sergei Gonchar let the puck rip from the point with traffic in front to score a late power play goal and draw within 1.  The Penguins outshot the Flyers 15-10 in the second, but were stymied on multiple occassions by the hot hand of Martin Biron.  

In the 3rd period, the Flyers struck again on the power play while Brooks Orpik sat for a hooking call to put the game out of reach for the struggling Penguins.  Daniel Briere netted the goal off from a feed by Mike Richards and Kimmo Timonen.  The Penguins were never able to get any momentum back, and gave up the 5th goal in the empty net to Scott Hartnell on a pass by Mike Richards.  With just a few minutes left to play, Flyers Captain Jason Smith put a two-handed slash across the wrist of Sidney Crosby that went uncalled.  With the game out of reach, I (and most Penguins’ fans I would presume) expected the coach to put in Laraques to send a little vigilante justice the Flyers way, but he was nowhere to be seen.  Perhaps this is just one more miscue by the coach.  Instead, linemate Evgeni Malkin had to take matters into his own hands to put the hit on Smith.  The hit resulted in a team response from the Flyers….something I expected from the Penguins on the Crosby slash, but that never materialized.  While I admired Malkin’s willingness to send a message, he is not the one to sacrifice for the sake of sending messages.  Why is Georges Laraque in a Penguins uniform? 

The Penguins need to do some serious soul searching as a team and kill whatever cancer is eating away at their potential.  The Penguins will host the New Jersey Devils in Pittsburgh on Monday night. 

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