On a beautiful day (finally) in South Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Flyers handily defeated their bitter rival Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 4-0 in the first of a home and home back to back. The Flyers entered today’s game holding the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Their victory not only gives them a slight playoff cushion but also boosts their already high confidence by completely outplaying the #1 seed in their division.
It definitely felt like a playoff atmosphere at the Wells Fargo Center today as there is no opposing team that amps up Flyers fans as much as the Pittsburgh Penguins. The decimal level was so loud that you could feel the ground shake. And when the fans weren’t cheering after a big play, they were booing even louder every time Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby touched the puck. Crosby, as most fans will tell you, is public enemy #1 in Philadelphia.
The scuffling between the two teams didn’t take long as Flyers’ tough guy Zac Rinaldo got into it with Pittsburgh’s Simon Despres not even three minutes into the game which prompted an early Flyers Power Play. The Flyers quickly capitalized with a beautiful top shelf Scott Hatnell Power Play goal to give Philadelphia an early 1-0 lead. Later on in the first period, when the Flyers were shorthanded, Matt Read blasted a one-timer top shelf on a perfect pass and even better effort by Sean Couturier increasing the Flyers’ lead 2-0.
Philadelphia was never truly shorthanded in this game as the fans acted like an extra attacker providing a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and intensity that is warranted for a game of this magnitude.
The goals didn’t stop in the first period. With six minutes left in the second period, Flyers’ center Vincent Lecavalier broke free on a breakaway and added an insurance goal extending the team’s lead to 3-0. Then, with beautiful puck movement, Matt Read tacked on his 2nd goal of the game with tic-tac-toe passing from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier with only 17 seconds left in the period to cement the Flyers’ victory at 4-0.
Matt Read spoke about how his team was able to limit the Penguins’ big play chances after the game:
“We didn’t give them much time and we put pressure on the puck and we were making them force plays they didn’t want to make,” he said. “That created turnovers and we had a couple offensive chances on the PK there and we did a good job overall.”
Steve Mason played outstanding once again by shutting out the Penguins on all 25 shots he faced. He had high praise for his teammates after the game:
“It was just a very enjoyable game to play and watching the guys back there the whole game just competing hard,” he said. “That’s the type of hockey we need to play moving forward.”
The Flyers peppered Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with 40 shots on goal. They also won the face off battle 31-24 and had 37 hits on Penguins players; most of which knocked them down to the ice. It was an all around victory for a team making a stand as a formidable playoff contender with only weeks left in the regular season.
Flyers’ captain Claude Giroux addressed the keys to today’s win:
“It’s only one game, but we did what we wanted to do to kinda stop their power play,” he said. “They have a lot of key players and we were very happy with our penalty killing and our power play.”
To add even more meaning to a huge victory like this, the Flyers organization honored the legendary coach Fred Shero with a bronze statue on the former site of the old Spectrum in Philadelphia. Shero coached the Flyers for seven seasons and led the Broadstreet Bullies to back to back Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975.
With only 16 games remaining in the regular season, the Flyers will now travel west to Pittsburgh as they attempt to sweep their rival in what can only be described as an early playoff tease.