PITTSBURGH, Pa. – There were two fights, nearly a couple of others and nine penalties, and that was only the first 2:35 of play. Obviously, the Flyers and Penguins don’t like each other.
What the Penguins dislike most is losing what Flyers forward Daniel Carcillo calls “The Battle of Pennsylvania.” At home. To a rookie goalie. For the second time this month.
Claude Giroux scored short-handed and on a power play and Sergei Bobrovsky made 26 saves to win again in Pittsburgh, leading the Flyers to a 3-2 victory over the slumping Penguins on Friday night.
Kris Letang scored a few minutes after the early nastiness settled down, but the Penguins repeatedly squandered chances after that by going 0-for-6 on the power play. They are 0-for-20 in four games, three of them losses.
“It’s obviously frustrating,” captain Sidney Crosby said, referring not only to the power play but the result.
With the teams tied 1-1, Carcillo redirected Matt Carle’s soft wrist shot between Marc-Andre Fleury’s pads 13:34 into the second period and the Flyers never trailed again. Carcillo was scratched in three of the previous five games.
“I wanted to get Danny back in there because we are on the road, in Pittsburgh, and they’ve got some tough players in their lineup,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “He brings a physical element.”
Giroux sealed it midway through the third with his sixth goal, punching the puck past Fleury after a scramble in front of the Pittsburgh net in which three Flyers had scoring chances. The power play was created by a penalty for too many men on the ice.
Tyler Kennedy scored on a one-timer of Crosby’s cross-ice pass with 45 seconds remaining, but it was too late for the Penguins as they dropped their third in a row. They lost a 3-1 lead Wednesday during a 5-3 loss at Tampa Bay.
“That’s kind of been our story for a little while, we’re not following it up,” Penguins forward Mike Rupp said. “We had a rough second period and didn’t seem to get it after that.”
Pittsburgh’s early season goalie debate remains unsettled, too. Fleury made 21 saves but is 1-5, while backup Brent Johnson—likely to play Saturday at Carolina—is 4-0-1.
The Flyers, outmuscled and outplayed most of the first period, found their game while killing off Danny Briere’s high-sticking penalty early in the second. Mike Richards, who began the game by fighting the Penguins’ Matt Cooke, stole the puck from Letang and fed it to Giroux for a backhander that eluded Fleury.
“I’m not so sure how he saw me, but it was right on my tape and I was able to beat him,” Giroux said.
Giroux began this season without a short-handed goal, but now has three—two in Pittsburgh. He also scored short-handed as the Flyers ruined the Penguins’ Consol Energy Center debut by winning 3-2 on Oct. 7, when Bobrovsky made 27 saves in his NHL debut.
The Flyers and Penguins have a history of dislike that dates to their NHL debuts in 1967, and the first period illustrated that.
Only 17 seconds after Richards and Cooke fought immediately after the opening faceoff—Richards accused Cooke of ducking a fight Oct. 16 in Philadelphia—Pittsburgh’s Deryk Engelland’s right-hand punch opened a cut above Flyers forward Jody Shelley’s left eye.
That fight left traces of blood on the ice and Engelland’s jersey sleeve. Shelley went to the locker room briefly to get the cut stitched, but returned later in the period.
Maybe it was too much of the NHL to ask two rivals to play three times in 23 days, and with so many penalties the teams skated 3-on-3 for 1:34 of the first. The Flyers wound up with three power plays in the period, yet they lasted only 36 seconds combined.
“It was actually kind of difficult just because it was constantly pausing in the beginning—stops and stops,” Bobrovsky said.
NOTES: Philadelphia was 1-for-5 on the power play. … The Flyers play in Pittsburgh only once more, on March 29. … Pittsburgh is 2-4 in its new arena … The Penguins are 5-5-1. They started 9-2 last season. … Philadelphia held out F Nik Zherdev, who was dropped to the fourth line complaining about his ice time. … Letang has as many goals (3) as he scored last season.