Penguins beat Flyers 3-1 in opener
On the same sheet of ice their season ended last April, the Penguins beat the Flyers 3-1 in the opening game of the NHL’s
Fans tuning in to see the same post-whistle fireworks were in for a surprise, though – both teams shied away from the scrums and all out brawls that filled their first round playoff series 9 months ago.
And all the offense? Also almost non-existent.
Though, at the beginning, the Pens looked like they were about to pick up right where that playoff series left off. On their first powerplay opportunity of the season, the 2nd unit cashed in when a Paul Martin slapper found its way past a helpless Ilya Bryzgalov to put the Penguins up 1-0. Martin’s shot hit a stick in front and the goal was awarded – still is at the time of me writing this – to Tyler Kennedy. The puck clearly changed directions in front of the net, but the stick it hit was that of the Flyer defender, not Mr. Kennedy...
It’s worth noting that Brandon Sutter won a huge faceoff that lead to the goal. This Sutter kid might not make us FORGET about Jordan Staal, but I have a feeling us Penguin fans are going to really, really like him. Solid player and a solid performance in his first game in a black and Vegas gold sweater.
The Pens weren’t done, either. Another big faceoff win, this time by reigning MVP Evgeni Malkin, led to a James Neal snipe-job to make it 2-0, good guys. It really is baffling to me that Neal can STILL score on that play – he and Malkin hooked up at least a half dozen times off the faceoff like that last year. You’d think that teams would have some way of stopping it by now.
Things settled down after that. The Pens had a couple more chances against a sluggish-looking Flyer team. Philly had a chance to get their legs under them with a couple of late powerplay chances in the 1st, and that’s just what happened.
The Penguins’ penalty killers did what they were supposed to do on those two, man-down situations – killed the penalties – but the guys in orange got a much needed boost from them, too. That boost carried over into the second period when newly minted captain Claude Giroux chipped in a pretty Scott Hartnell pass 22 seconds in.
The ice was definitely tilted towards the end where the Flower was planted for just about all of the 2nd period. But Fleury stood tall and the defense did just enough to bail him out when pucks got past him (thank you very much Craig Adams). The Pens had a couple of chances, but they were few and far between.
The Penguins survived that 2nd period.
They played better in the 3rd, but couldn’t convert on any of their chances. Chris Kunitz ended it with an empty netter with 12 seconds left in the game.
- Eric Tangradi didn’t look all that great on the Malkin-Neal line. You have to wonder how long they’ll try him out there. If he becomes a detriment to the chemistry 71 and 18 have, it won’t be long
- Speaking of one Eugene Malkin…that sequence in the 1st period where he backchecked like a maniac and caused upwards of 3 turnovers on one shift? Wow. Looks like the KHL did him well.
- Paul Martin, undoubtedly, played his best game as a Penguin on Saturday. I’ve always heard – from people that followed him in New Jersey – that he plays better with a more physical partner. Brooks Orpik is indeed that.
- The pairing of Deryk Engelland and Simon Despres was solid. That’s a good thing considering I heard a lot of, “Simon Despres looks lost out there,” after the black & gold game.
- Great ring presentation and banner raising spectacle the Kings put on before their opener against the Blackhawks.
- Thank God hockey is back.
- Pens play the Rangers in, like, 10 minutes.