Flyers
Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby, and the Penguins spoiled a special milestone for Brian Elliott, earning a well-deserved victory over the Flyers in a game that wasn’t as much of a blowout as the scoreboard indicates. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

I wish they would’ve just dealt us a plus-four card instead. The Philadelphia Flyers lose, 7-3, to the Pittsburgh Penguins in tonight’s game of UNO hockey. One night after the Flyers put up a touchdown on the Pens, Pittsburgh returned the favor, spoiling Philadelphia’s comeback bid and securing two huge points in the standings.

There aren’t too many meaningful moments left in the Flyers season, but one of them came tonight, with Brian Elliott playing in his 500th NHL game. Naturally, the Flyers did what you do when your goaltender reaches a significant milestone — hang him out to dry. Pittsburgh took the game’s first four shots, and sure enough, one of them found the back of the net. Less than two minutes in, three Penguins took advantage of sloppy net-front defense, with Marcus Pettersson finishing the job on a slick forehand-backhand finish for his first goal since Pittsburgh’s third game of the season.

After the dominant Penguins start, things largely evened out. Shots the rest of the frame was 7-6 Penguins, and the Flyers survived a Pittsburgh power-play with about four minutes left in the frame. A sharp Brian Elliott kept the Penguins from pulling away as the Flyers did in last night’s first period. The second period started with a couple of good chances for both sides, then a big hit by Mark Friedman on his former teammate Joel Farabee. Jake Voracek gave Friedman a cross-check, but Farabee stepped up for themselves, dropping the gloves and dropping Friedman. The aforementioned cross-check gave Pittsburgh an extra man, and Jake Guentzel gave the Pens an extra goal, jamming in a backhander past a full snow-angel Elliott.

Things went from bad to worse when Nolan Patrick blocked a Pettersson shot right into Sidney Crosby’s wheelhouse. The Penguins captain made no mistake, taking sole possession of the second-most goals ever scored against the Flyers at 48. At this point, it seemed almost certain this wasn’t going to be the Flyers night. Yes, a Justin Braun of all players snuck in a jam-play goal just a few minutes later change the equation, but only slightly. Even when the Penguins gave the Flyers a power-play chance to get back in it, all Philly could manage was a couple of perimeter plays (one of which nearly resulted in a Travis Konecny goal). That and a Jeff Carter short-handed breakaway, which Elliott mercifully snuffed out.

Speaking of Carter, the Flyers actually got a lucky bounce late in the second. With less than 90 seconds remaining in the period, a Sean Couturier centering pass skittered into the net off Carter’s skate. Good to see the ex-Flyer still helping his old club out. And while the Flyers felt sluggish, it’s worth noting their underlying numbers were actually very solid. Through forty minutes, Philly had a 53.23% Corsi and 60.79% xG at 5-on-5. And thanks to that lucky break, the Flyers were right in it where it counts heading into the 3rd.

Philadelphia certainly came out of the dressing room with a purpose. They took the frame’s first six shots and seemed destined to even the tally. Yet Tristan Jarry had the answers, even stimying Claude Giroux on a breakaway. Kasperi Kapanen stripped the captain in his own high slot and fed the puck down low to an uncovered Jason Zucker. One nifty move later, and Pittsburgh re-established their two-goal edge, all but putting the Flyers away… for a few minutes. Travis Konecny fired a beautiful cross-ice feed from the right boards that pinballed in off John Marino’s skate, keeping the Flyers alive.

Yet leave it up to Sidney Crosby to deal the finishing blow… for good. Off an excellent cycle from Guentzel and Bryan Rust, Crosby snapped a lightning-quick one-timer past a stunned Brian Elliott, silencing the Flyer faithful. Mark Friedman (who else?) put the game away with the empty-netter, and Shayne Gostisbehere got tossed for shoving Friedman after the fact. Side note: this Flyers team really hates Mark Friedman. And they certainly don’t like John Marino burying a cross-ice feed from Crosby on the penalty given to Ghost. One night after giving up seven, the Penguins score seven and move to first in the East with the win.

Yes, this is another one-step forward, one-step-back moment for a team that has known nothing but since the start of March. However, I’ll give them at least a little bit of a pass for showing a ton of fight until the Friedman empty-netter. It’s frustrating that the Flyers hung Elliott out to dry in the early goings considering the milestone he reached. But considering the criteria I set last month, this game is at least a partial success because of the effort they showed in keeping the game close. Sure doesn’t feel like it, though.

Lindies

Brian Elliott wasn’t the only goaltender to reach a milestone tonight; Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry also appeared in his 100th NHL game tonight. That’s not enough to get your own t-shirt, as we found out when Kevin Hayes showed up today.

This is the milestone content we all need. Only fourteen active goalies have played 500 games in the NHL. Only Ron Hextall, Bernie Parent, and Jeff Hackett (spot the outlier) have played their 500th game in net for the Orange and Black. Brian Elliott is now part of both groups. Congrats to the entire Elliott family on Brian’s incredible milestone. I’m sure Moose would be the first to say he couldn’t have done it without them.

More congratulations to Flyers prospect Olle Lycksell, who signed his entry-level deal tonight. It’s a two-year deal with an $837,500 cap hit starting in the 2021-22 season. Lycksell was taken in the 6th round of the 2017 NHL Draft by Philly and has 21 points in 46 games for Färjestad BK of the SHL. The right-winger is only 5’10”, 165 lbs, but he’s got some shifty skill and is only 21. Best of luck to him in North America!

Wanna know how much goaltending matters in the NHL? Here’s something the NBCSN broadcast touched on tonight. Through March 1, the Flyers were 11-4-3 with a .843% high-danger save percentage (4th in the NHL). The Penguins, on the other hand, were 11-8-1 with a .788% high-danger save percentage (27th). Since then? Philly is 12-18-4 with the league’s worst high-danger SV% (.756%). Pittsburgh is 23-8-2 with a .866% high-danger SV (7th in NHL). Show me a good coach (or team), I’ll show you a good goalie (though Elliott was certainly on his A-game tonight).

Anyone else that Pittsburgh was in the middle of a 2-on-1 when played stopped because Phil Myers accidentally high-sticked Wade Allison early in the 2nd? Pittsburgh got absolutely jobbed there; I guess the refs must’ve thought the high-stick came from a Penguin at first.

I guess the Penguins might as well take advantage of that goodwill by doing something stupid (see below). Hey, if the Rangers can demand a suspension and George Parros being fired for that Tom Wilson debacle last night, what can I demand for this? Bettman’s head and an automatic playoff berth seem like a fair starting point.

It would be wild if this actually gets Crosby suspended after what Wilson did last night. There’s a chance it happens (in my opinion). But I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Department of Player Safety doubles down and gives Crosby a fine (or nothing).

Justin Braun’s goal is his first since January 21, 2020, which actually also came against the Penguins. Yeah, it was an empty-netter, but it still counts.

The Flyers finish their season series against the Penguins with a record of 5-3-0. Tonight was their only loss to the Pens this year in Philly; they won the first three meetings by a combined 18-7 margin. Yeah, I’m really digging deep to find positives right now.

3 Stars

3rd: Claude Giroux (PHI) – 2 Assists (24, 25), 64% Face-offs

2nd: Jake Guentzel (PIT) – Assist (32), 20:12 TOI

1st: Sidney Crosby (PIT) – 2 Goals (22, 23), Assist (37), 4 Shots

Next

PIT – 5/6, 7 PM vs. BUF (15-32-7, W1)

PHI – 5/7, 7 PM @ WSH (33-14-5, W1)

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