Penguins, Flyers renew rivalry in south Philly
With the Flyers and Penguins set to play in the same conference once the NHL's realignment is put in place, this heated rivalry between current Atlantic Division residents isn't going anywhere.
Two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, the Pennsylvania residents meet for the first time this season tonight at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center, but the engagement will be without one key piece with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby set to miss the next two games.
The Flyers will have no such misfortunes as they boast the league's top scorer in Claude Giroux.
Giroux is coming off his second four-point game of the season as he notched three assists last night in Buffalo to help the Flyers overcome an early 3-0 deficit before tallying the game-winner with 2:23 left in overtime. Giroux's NHL-leading 36th point gave Philadelphia a 5-4 victory.
It marked the second straight overtime winner for Giroux, who has seven goals and 17 points in his last 10 games. He also had the winner in Anaheim on Friday in a game that saw the Flyers battle back from another 3-0 deficit.
It was much of the same last night as Jaromir Jagr, Scott Hartnell, Matt Read and Max Talbot scored versus the Sabres. Read is second among NHL rookies with 11 goals for the Flyers, who have won three straight and five of six. They have played three overtime games in that span, which could have contributed to last night's slow start.
"I knew we were gonna have a tough time," said Jagr. "You could see it, in 10 minutes we had no legs. But somehow we got it in."
Ilya Bryzgalov shook off a poor first period in which he allowed three goals to make 20 saves in the win.
After pulling within one point of Pittsburgh for first place in the division and conference, Philadelphia will look to win four in a row for the first time this season. Not having to face Crosby will certainly help.
Pittsburgh's captain made his season debut back on Nov. 21 after missing 61 straight games due to a concussion suffered in January. The Penguins went 34-19-8 in that span without Crosby before winning five of eight once he rejoined the lineup.
Crosby has two goals and 10 assists in his eight games, but was held without a point in Monday's 3-1 loss to Boston in which he apparently absorbed a hard hit. That led to Pens general manager Ray Shero announcing that Crosby will sit out tonight and Saturday's game at the Islanders as a precaution for an undisclosed injury.
"Sidney took a hard hit during our game against Boston Monday night and wasn't feeling 100 percent," Shero said Wednesday. "He saw Dr. Micky Collins of UPMC today and took an ImPACT test, which showed no problems. However, we all think it's best that he sits out the next two games as a precaution."
Matt Cooke had the lone goal in Monday's loss and Marc-Andre Fleury gave up three goals on 27 shots for the Penguins, who went 0-for-5 on the power play and had a two-game win streak halted. They still lead the East with 36 points.
"I thought they played very well tonight and dictated the pace of the game," said Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma of Boston. "We didn't capitalize on our special teams opportunities and that hurt us."
Tonight will mark Talbot's first game against his former Penguins club, which selected him in the eighth round of the 2002 draft. Talbot had 52 goals and 108 points in 388 games over six seasons with the Pens, but became a fan favorite and hero when he scored both goals in a 2-1 victory over the Red Wings in Game 7 of the 2009 playoffs to clinch the Stanley Cup for the Penguins.
Jagr, of course, knows something about winning titles with Pittsburgh. He won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Pens from 1990-91-2000-01. Jagr, who was selected fifth overall by the Penguins in the 1990 draft, tallied 1,079 points in 806 games with Pittsburgh and will face them for the first time since returning to the NHL following a stint in the KHL.
The Flyers won four of six over the Penguins a season ago, but both losses came in Philadelphia, where Pittsburgh has won seven of its last eight trips.