The short version:
The Pens started out a little bit tenative and slow, took some bad penalties, and gave up the first three goals. They came roaring back to take the lead 4-3, only to lose the lead in the last five minutes of the third period. An exciting, yet depressing game.
The longer version:
The Pens spent four of the first six minutes of the game short-handed. They continued to take bad penalties throughout the game. The team didn't seem to do well in puck possession early on. Of course, it's hard to establish much consistency when you're on special teams for much of the period. Of the two goals Fleury gave up during the period, one was on the power play, and the other was a nice deflection by Forsberg. The Pens really didn't generate much offense - they were outshot 14-6. The score at the end of the first period:
The Pens continued to take bad penalties, especially Shane Endicott, who took two high-sticking calls. In fairness, both of them were plays where he was tied up with a Flyers player and working hard. That, however, doesn't change the fact that he put the Pens short-handed. The Flyers cashed in on the first one, scoring their second power play goal on another deflection. There wasn't much Fleury could have done to stop it. The score was 3-0 and things were looking bleak.
After that, the Pens started hitting. They outhit the Flyers for the game by a margin of 22-7. They also started to develop some consistency in their attack, spending time in the offensive zone in possession of the puck. Matt Murley was in a fight with Ben Eager... okay - Murley was basically a punching bag for Eager, but it was good to see someone stand up and not take the crap. Murley did look as though he was hurt (shoulder), and he didn't return. Brooks Orpik became a hitting machine. He led the team with five hits on the night. He absolutely flattened someone during the second period (not sure of who it was) in open ice. It really got the crowd going.
Anyway, the Pens got the puck to the net on a more consistent basis, and it paid off with Surovy's goal. After that, on the power play, Christensen walked out of the corner and snapped off one of his hard wrist shots, beating Niittymaki high to the far side. It was a great shot. The score at the end of the second:
The crowd really got into the game in the third. Sidney Crosby took over the game almost single-handedly. He was on the ice in a 4-4 situation and made a great individual play to score a goal to tie the game. After that, the Pens rolled a new line for about 40 seconds. As that line was coming off the ice, Brooks Orpik made a great play, keeping the puck in the offensive zone. He took the puck in deep behind the net, carrying it until Crosby (who had just jumped back onto the ice) came late. Orpik got Crosby the puck, and Crosby made another great shot, roofing a backhand over Niittymaki, and giving the Penguins the lead. The team received a standing ovation from the crowd, and the arena was briefly a great place to be.
After that, the Pens locked things down pretty well. The Flyers only managed six shots in the third period. Unfortunately, two of the shots were good scoring chances, and both of them went in. I can't imagine Therrien will be very pleased to blow a lead in the last five minutes of a game. I didn't think Fleury played badly. He made some really nice saves. However, he needs to make a save on at least one of those goals in the third. At the end of the game, the scoreboard tells the tale:
All told, it was an exciting game that with a very disappointing finish. After a slow start, the Pens clearly were playing more disciplined in terms of their offense and defense. I could see improvement, especially during the second and third. Unfortunately, improvement isn't going to get the team into the playoffs. It may be time to focus on development soon.
A few quick notes about the crowd at the arena:
With 20 seconds left, the goalie pulled, and a faceoff upcoming in the Flyers zone, people got up to leave when the Pens called timeout?!?!?!?! I couldn't believe my eyes. They really need to stop letting Steeler fans into the Penguin games.
The real reason the team lost tonight is that with over 10 minutes remaining in the third, some idiot started a chant of "Flyers suck!" I'll admit, I joined in (it was fun), but it was pretty dumb to be taunting a good team like the Flyers with that much time left.
Anyway, here are a few more pictures from the game for you to enjoy. Have a Merry Christmas, or enjoy whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year!
The zamboni between periods...
Just after the faceoff to begin the second period.
Iceburgh says "We'll get 'em next time!"