PITTSBURGH – After losing to Pittsburgh in each of the last two Eastern Conference playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers reconfigured their lineup to make an already rugged team more physical and better capable of taking out the Penguins.
So far, it’s not working.
Jordan Staal scored twice and Sidney Crosby’s goal and assist early in the first period amid a succession of fights lifted the Penguins to a 6-1 victory over the Flyers on Tuesday night in a feisty renewal of an intensifying rivalry.
Bill Guerin, Ruslan Fedotenko and Evgeni Malkin also scored for the Penguins.
Flyers tough guy Dan Carcillo had the lone Philadelphia goal.
Crosby scored an infrequent Penguins power-play goal 3:30 in – before a flurry of three fights in 16 seconds – and set up Guerin’s goal about 2½ minutes later, immediately after the first round of pushing, shoving and punching. Crosby had a three-point night and now has 21 goals and 28 assists in 28 career games against Philadelphia.
The Flyers managed to fill up the penalty box, but it was Pittsburgh that filled the net.
The cross-state rivals hadn’t played since the Penguins accused the Flyers’ Scott Hartnell of biting defenceman Kris Letang’s finger during Pittsburgh’s 5-4 victory in Philadelphia on Oct. 8, and they picked up the rivalry as if that game had been played last week. There were fights between Arron Asham and Mike Rupp, Riley Cote and Eric Godard, and Carcillo and Craig Adams in the first 5:33.
The game settled down a bit after that, but there appeared to be considerable on-ice jawing and agitating. Not that it was any surprise.
“In juniors I’ve seen that – back to back to back (fights) like that – but not up here,” Crosby said. “It was pretty exciting for both teams. It lived up to the rivalry, that game.”
The Flyers, 3-1 winners in Boston on Monday night, set the tone with their aggressive style, but couldn’t match the Penguins’ scoring. And the surprise was the Penguins were as eager to fight as Philadelphia.
“Those guys did a great job in those fights and got us going,” Staal said. “It’s real easy to get up for these games, it’s an exciting match every time we play. It’s a battle and I think it’s something everyone enjoys.”
The Flyers have lost 11 of 14 and are 2-5 under new coach Peter Laviolette. They have not lost a home-and-home series against Pittsburgh in 17 years – something they will try to avoid doing when the teams meet Thursday in Philadelphia.
“When you’re not working, you’re going to look like that,” Laviolette said. “We were on our heels, we’re not on our toes, last night (in Boston) we were on our toes. We won the battles, won the races to loose pucks and open areas and tonight we did not.”
Flyers captain Mike Richards said something else is missing with a team that is a disappointing 15-16-1.
“We’re not playing with enough heart right now to win,” Richards said.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves for the Penguins, who won their third in a row and ninth in 12 games.
Fedotenko also scored for Pittsburgh and indirectly set up Crosby’s goal 3:30 into the game as Sergei Gonchar’s slap shot deflected off Fedotenko to Crosby in the lower right circle. Guerin scored at 6:09 by putting in a rebound of Crosby’s hard wrist shot from the right circle as goalie Brian Boucher failed to cover the puck.
Carcillo scored on a power play about five minutes later, but Staal put the Penguins ahead 3-1 at 14:51 of the second with his second short-handed goal of the season and 10th of his career. Staal also scored with 15 seconds left in the second period, his 10th. Malkin added a late goal and had an assist.
NOTES: Carcillo’s apparent goal early in the third was waved off when replays showed him turning his skate to steer the puck into the net. … Penguins F Max Talbot, who scored both goals in the 2-1 victory over Detroit in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, was a healthy scratch. The Penguins have 13 healthy forwards. … The Penguins were 1 for 15 with the advantage and were next to last in the NHL in power-play efficiency before Crosby scored. Pittsburgh was 1 for 4 on the power play, Philadelphia was 1 for 6.