The blood feud between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers gained yet another storied chapter last night when Sidney Crosby and the Pens rolled into Philadelphia and took the first game of the Battle of Pennsylvania for the 2013-2014 season, 4-1.
Actually, storied may be a bit of an over-statement. In fact, last night’s installment of the Penguins/Flyers rivalry was one of the more forgettable in recent memory, and for several reasons.
For the most part, the game was extremely one-sided, with the Pens dominating play for most of the game. After a scoreless first period, Pittsburgh got two quick goals from Jussi Jokinen and Chris Kunitz, and it looked like they were going to run away with the game. However, the Flyers scored off of a Wayne Simmonds deflection with two seconds left in the second period to give Philly the momentum heading into the third period.
Maybe, just maybe, the Flyers would come out for the final 20 minutes and make things interesting, and to their credit, the first 10 minutes of the third period were their strongest all game, however they just couldn’t capitalize.
Marc-Andre Fleury stood tall in net for the Pens, stopping a Simmonds rebound attempt from point blank range, as well as shutting the door when the Flyers were on the power play. To be fair, he also had a little luck from the Flyers themselves, who twice missed wide-open nets that would have tied up the game.
Sidney Crosby put the game out of hand late in the third on a rebound, and then Evgeni Malkin iced the game with an empty netter in the final minute. All in all, Pittsburgh dominated an uninspired and un-energetic Flyers team, and embarrassed them in their own building.
Not to say that the evening didn’t have some intense moments. It started just as physical as any other meeting between the two, and Robert Bortuzzo’s fight with Flyers LW Kris Newbury was a heavyweight battle for the ages, with both combatants landing some huge bombs. However in the end Philadelphia was unable to capitalize on the momentum.
Pittsburgh’s big guns showed up in a big way to bury the Flyers, however it was the bottom six of Pittsburgh that really stood out. For one, defenseman Deryk Engelland skated a forward on the 4th line and looked remarkably comfortable in his new role. Tanner Glass, Craig Adams, Harry Zolnierczyk, and defenseman Matt Niskanen all played great, which is huge considering the Penguins recent problems with their bottom six. The fact that the team was without star winger James Neal and number-one defenseman Kris Letang made it all the more important.
For as good as the penguins looked, the Flyers looked equally awful. While goaltending has often been a weak spot in Philly, it is the least of their concerns right now. Steve Mason played pretty well all things considered, and had it not been for him the score could have been a lot worse. A sparse blue-line was depleted even more after defenseman Kimmo Timmonen left with a lower body injury in the second period, and a Flyers offense that has been anemic so far this season continued to struggle, ad captain Claude Giroux was borderline non-exsistant. Not a fun time to be a Flyers fan.
All in all, thursday’s game will go down as one of the more uneventful games in this short but intense rivalry.