PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The Philadelphia Flyers appear to have recovered from a rough start to the season, while the intrastate rival Pittsburgh Penguins seem to be coming back to the rest of the pack after their strong start.
Brayden Schenn scored two goals and backup goalie Ray Emery stopped 30 shots to lead the Flyers in a 2-1 victory over the Penguins on Wednesday night for their third straight victory.
“Obviously, we’re working on trying to put some wins together right now and playing pretty sound defensive hockey,” Schenn said. “We’re waiting for our opportunities to score and right now we’re scoring when they’re there, so we have to keep it going.”
Schenn, who had a goal and an assist during Philadelphia’s 5-0 win against Ottawa the previous night, opened the scoring late in the first period and got the tiebreaker late in the second. Emery got the start one night after Steve Mason shut out the Senators.
“The last couple weeks, the boys score more goals,” Emery said. “We had a great night in Ottawa, had a tough-back-to-back against one of our rivals and a really good team in Pittsburgh, so they’re all steps in the right direction.”
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby scored his ninth goal of the season, and first in eight games. Marc-Andre Fleury made 19 saves for Pittsburgh, which has lost three straight for the second time this season.
“It’s never easy losing,” Crosby said. “When you get the chances you feel like you deserve better, but we still didn’t get the result we wanted.”
Pittsburgh came into the game with four straight wins against its intrastate rival and victories in six of the last eight meetings. However, the Flyers, 9-2-1 at Consol Energy Center since the arena opened, led by a goal after two periods. Philadelphia then shut down the high-flying Penguins in the third as Pittsburgh generated few opportunities in the final 20 minutes, appeared sluggish during a power-play opportunity, and used its timeout to regroup early in the period.
“I like the fact that we grinded the win out,” Flyers head coach Craig Berube said. “We played the night before and did a lot of the little things right tonight.”
After a horrid 1-7 start which contributed to the firing of former coach Peter Laviolette, the Flyers have gone 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, earning points in five of their last six contests. Philadelphia scored first in all seven wins and lost in all seven games in which it has allowed the first goal.
Philadelphia is currently on a three-game road swing, coming off a dominating 5-0 victory at Ottawa 24 hours earlier. The Flyers have scored 11 goals in three games after getting 22 in their first 15, the fewest for any team during that stretch since 1956.
“I think as a team we’re gaining more confidence and really getting into it,” Emery said.
The Penguins, one point ahead of Washington for the top spot in the division, were off since a 2-1 loss Saturday at St. Louis and hadn’t played at home in 11 days. Pittsburgh, despite a wealth of talent, has experienced trouble scoring recently, totalling just three goals in the three-game skid. The Penguins are 11-2 when they score three or more goals and 0-4 when they score fewer than three.
“We’re not doing enough around the net and in those areas to get the goals,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “We had opportunities, but we were not able to get in their end and finish.”
Crosby has just three goals in 11 games, while Evgeni Malkin hasn’t scored in his last 11 and Pascal Dupuis, a 20-goal scorer last season, has gone 12 games without a goal.
“I think the chances are there, we just have to put them in,” Dupuis said. “It’s definitely not a fun time, but you just have to find ways to score.”
Chris Kunitz thought he staked the Penguins to a 1-0 lead 19 seconds into the game, but the goal was disallowed after it was determined there was a distinct kicking motion when the rebound from his initial backhand shot ricocheted off his shin guards.
“I thought he kind of (kicked it), but he was stopping, so you never know,” Emery said. “It’s a good break.”
That break allowed the Flyers got the game’s first tally with 3:58 left in the first period, when Schenn, who has four goals in six games, took a left-corner feed from Wayne Simmonds and wristed a shot over Fleury’s glove hand from the faceoff dot.
The Penguins got it back on the power play midway through the second period, tying the game at 8:29 when Crosby one-touched Malkin’s centring pass from the right-wing boards over Emery’s blocker.
Philadelphia reclaimed the lead with a power-play goal of its own with 1:20 to go in the period. Jakub Voracek’s initial shot from the point deflected off several players in front and bounced off the post. Schenn found the rebound in front of the net, and tapped his second of the game into a partially open net, giving the Flyers the lead for good.
“We’re winning right now and it was a good win,” Berube said. “We didn’t get off to a great start, but our goalie was really good and gave us a chance to win and get our feet under us.”
NOTES: Penguins D Paul Martin missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. Dustin Jeffrey and Jayson Megna were also out for the Penguins. … D Hal Gill, D Andrej Meszaros, and LW Michael Raffl sat for Philadelphia. … The two rivals do not play again until a home-and-home set March 15-16.