PITTSBURGH — The Flyers love last-minute comebacks against the Penguins.
James van Riemsdyk scored with 18.8 seconds remaining in regulation that earned the Flyers a point before Sean Couturier won it in overtime, 2-1, Sunday night in Pittsburgh.
The Flyers took their regular-season series against the Pens, 3-1, while also pulling within six points of the second wild-card team, Columbus.
Here are my observations from PPG Paints Arena:
• JVR has 10 goals in his last 11 games, including the goal that may have saved the Flyers' slim playoff chances.
• After the disaster Friday in Toronto, I thought it was vitally important for the Flyers to establish a strong defensive presence and tighten up their play in the middle of the ice. They were able to do that, limiting the Penguins' chances in the first period while keeping shots to the outside.
• However, the second period was a Pittsburgh shooting gallery as it had the Flyers pinned into their zone. Nick Bjugstad raced by Travis Sanheim, who may played the longest shift (2:37) in his professional career as the Flyers' defenseman simply couldn’t get off the ice and was almost paralyzed out there.
Leave it to Carter Hart to come up with his best period since his personal eight-game winning streak. Pittsburgh had 31 shot attempts (18 on net) in that second period.
Hart finished with 41 saves, tying his career high.
• Teddy Blueger is no Evgeni Malkin, but with the Penguins' star center out with an injury, it was Blueger filling in as the Penguins' second-line center. Sometimes Malkin can go dormant at even strength, but you have to be completely aware of where he is on the power play.
Without Malkin, the Pens' power play didn’t have that lethal look to it. Coming into this game, Pittsburgh’s power play had scored five goals over the last three games.
• Of course, I wrote this earlier in the game and it’s Blueger who scored the game’s first goal. The Penguins' center had done absolutely nothing up to that point and was the recipient of a rebound that fell right to his stick.
Scott Laughton had Blueger pinned against the boards, lost him for just a split second and was victimized by the rebound goal.
• Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon appeared to be conserving Claude Giroux in this game. The Flyers' captain was a game-time decision, feeling under the weather, and he played just 4:40 in the first period, but 7:29 in the second and a whopping 9:38 in the third.
• What a weird sequence of events to start the second period with the Flyers successfully challenging the initial call of goaltender interference. I thought the off-ice officials made the right determination in ruling it a good goal, and the on-ice officials also made the easy review in determining the play was offsides.
However, the on-ice officials actually erred twice. I’ve never seen two successful challenges on the same play. Very bizarre.
• Defensively, playing without their No. 1 defenseman Kris Letang, the Pens' blue line was a major difference in this game as it negated the Flyers' chances with excellent coverage and some very good breakout passes that didn’t allow the Flyers to set up their neutral-zone defense.
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