The Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon pushed the Penguins into the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
After a sluggish start, Pittsburgh responded well controlling the play for the final forty minutes of game and ending their three game losing streak
In the offensive zone, Pittsburgh did a extremely good job of crashing the net and netted more than three goals for the first time in ten games.
“All of our goals were a result of going to the net, crashing there and getting second chances,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “That’s what you have to do, ” Bylsma added. Pascal Dupuis (18), Chris Kunitz (13), Matt Cooke (14) and Ruslan Fedotenko (11) scored for Pittsburgh. Marc Andre Fleury made 26 saves to record the win and Sidney Crosby added three assists.
For a team fighting for a playoff spot, the Flyers played a disappointing game against their in-state rivals.”We’re a team that’s struggling right now,” Flyers winger Simon Gagne said. The Flyers are currently the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference with 80 points.
A win by the New Jersey Saturday night moved the Devils into first place in the Atlantic division. Both teams are tied with 93 points and the pressure is on Pittsburgh to make it back-to-back weekend wins as the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town tonight.
It will be the first meeting between the two teams since Alexei Ponikarovsky and Luca Caputi were traded for each other at the March trade deadline.
Ponikarovsky who spent 9 years in the Leafs organization, had one of his better games in a Penguins uniform Saturday afternoon.
Ponikarovsky was strong on the boards and showed some chemistry with Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis.
The plan has been to play Ponikarovsky with Evgeni Malkin but with Malkin sidelined with a right foot injury, it’s opened the door for the coaching staff to give Ponikarovsky a strong look with Sidney Crosby.
After not showing much chemistry with Crosby in two previous games, Ponikarovsky showed some comfort with the Penguins top center and the unit will stay together tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Malkin is not expected to be available to play tonight and is questionable to play Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
If Dan Bylsma decides to go with Ponikarovsky and Dupuis with Crosby moving forward, it will create an interesting scenario on Evgeni Malkin’s line when he returns.
Chris Kunitz would be Malkin’s left wing but Bill Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko would be vying for a spot on Malkin’s right wing.
Fedotenko had a strong game against the Flyers recording a goal and an assist, while Guerin’s played has slipped in the second half of the season.
Guerin however is under no consideration to sit due to his presence on the power play.
The game against Philadelphia Saturday afternoon was the final regular season game at Mellon Arena.The Penguins will take a 58-44-2 home-ice record against Philadelphia into the Consol Energy Center, including 66 career wins at home against the Flyers.
The Flyers though hold a one-sided 132-85-31 series edge since both franchises entered the NHL in 1967.