by Tony on 04/15/09 at 11:35 PM ET
One of the bigger keys in this series in my view was going to be the Flyers’ attempt at defending the balanced attack of the Penguins.
For one game anyway the Pens passed that test with flying colors. All four of the Penguins’ lines regularly came at the Flyers with speed and controlled the play for the majority of the game, fueling the Pens to a dominating 4-1 win over the Flyers tonight at the Igloo.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both scored for the Penguins, while Marc-Andre Fleury, who didn’t really have to be spectacular, made 26 saves for the big Game One win.
Conversely, Flyers’ goalie Martin Biron continued to have his problems vs. the Penguins. Biron stopped 29 of 33 shots, but allowed a couple of goals that some might consider to be of the soft variety.
The first period was nearly entirely played in the Flyers’ zone. The Penguins used their speed and aggressiveness to establish a good forecheck and had several good cycling shifts.
The Penguins took advantage of the first of several Flyers’ penalties to get on the scoreboard quickly in the first period. After an Arron Asham neutral zone hooking penalty, on the powerplay Malkin fed the puck from behind the net to Crosby, who was able to get enough on the puck to slide it underneath Biron, hitting the post then Biron’s skate and into the net to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
They doubled their lead early in the second period when Tyler Kennedy and Jordan Staal came into the Flyers’ zone on a 2-on-1 break. With the Flyers’ defenseman taking away the pass, Kennedy patiently waited then fired what looked like a knuckleball of a wrister that Biron couldn’t handle to pad the Pens’ lead to 2-0 at the 1:39 mark.
The Flyers played much better in the second period, though. They had several good shifts in the Pens’ zone, but the Pens’ defense for the most part kept their high-scoring wingers to the perimeter and away from Fleury, and as a result were unsuccessful in getting anything past him, keeping the Pens’ lead going into the third period at 2-0.
About six minutes into the third, Malkin provided yet more proof why he’s been the most dominating player in the game this season. Using his relentless forecheck, he forced a bad pass from the Flyers’ defensemen back to the Flyers’ net, where it rebounded back towards Malkin. He then waited until Biron dove for the puck and slid a backhanded shot into the net to give them a commanding 3-0 lead.
The lead ballooned to 4-0 a few minutes later when Crosby won a faceoff and slid it back to Kris Letang, who dished it quickly to Mark Eaton. Eaton simply threw the puck on net, where it appeared to deflect off a Flyers defenseman’s stick and past Biron for the goal at the 10:27 mark.
The Flyers got their only tally of the night on their own powerplay late in the third period when Mike Richards’ second hit post of the night rebounded right to the stick of Simon Gagne, who banged it into the net to cut the Pens’ lead to 4-1.
The Flyers, as expected, gooned it up in the waning minutes, with several penalties.
- A big key tonight was the Penguins NOT retaliating to the Flyers physicality. The only retaliation was in the final minute after a Ryan Parent cross checking penalty on Jordan Staal to the end boards. Bill Guerin dropped the gloves with Braydon Coburn at the next faceoff.
- Flyers’ Kimmo Timonen looked to injure his knee early in the game after a check by new father Chris Kunitz.
- The Pens’ powerplay technically went 1-for-9, but some of those were in the final minute. Overall though, while they got the first goal, they weren’t very fluid with the man advantage, including only five shots on goal. They could definitely do better.
- Letang and Eaton led the Pens with +2.
- 67 hits between both teams. Craig Adams and Brooks Orpik led the Pens with five hits each.
- Speaking of Adams, IHCDB would be smart to keep him in the lineup. There is no use for Eric Godard at this time.
- The big lead for the Pens resulted in only 17 minutes of ice time for both Crosby and Malkin.
- Only one giveaway credited to the Penguins tonight.
- Orpik had eight blocked shots tonight.
- Great night for the Pens in the faceoff circle, including Crosby going 12-for-16 and Staal going 11-for-14.
They’ll be back at it on Friday night at the Igloo for Game Two.
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