PHILADELPHIA – Forget the end of a record personal winning streak, a team record shot total or seemingly outplaying an opponent.
The bottom line is this: The Flyers went into Monday night’s game with a chance to reduce Pittsburgh’s lead for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot to just four points.
When the night was over, the Flyers’ deficit was back up to eight points, mainly because Pittsburgh made the most of its scoring chances while the Flyers didn’t.
Sidney Crosby, Nick Bjugstad and Jake Guentzel managed to get pucks past rookie goalie Carter Hart and that was enough to end the rookie goalie’s NHL record-tying (for under-21 netminders) winning streak at eight games as Pittsburgh skated out of the Wells Fargo Center with a 4-1 win.
It was the Flyers’ first regulation-time loss since a 3-2 defeat at New Jersey on Jan. 12. They had been 9-0-1 since then.
The Flyers didn’t want to hear about moral victories, even though they set a franchise record for shots in a period, recording a whopping 28 in the second period. The old mark was 25.
For the game, the Flyers finished with a 51-28 shot edge.
Launching 28 shots and getting no goals in the second period took the wind out of the Flyers’ sails.
Flyers’ old nemesis Crosby gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 8:19 of the first period. Several Flyers lost the whereabouts of the puck. Bryan Rust relayed to Crosby behind the net. Crosby got to the far post before Hart could slide over.
Nick Bjugstad doubled the lead at 7:04. Evgeni Malkin left an accurate drop pass and Hart appeared to be screened a bit as Bjugstad’s shot found its way into the net.
The Flyers thought they were on the verge of a goal later in the period but Nolan Patrick couldn’t finish off a loose puck off a Travis Konecny shot at the 12:53 mark. Sean Couturier shook his head in disbelief as the puck grazed off goalie Matt Murray and was blown dead by a whistle.
That play was pivotal to the outcome of the game.
Was the whistle too early?
About 19,000 fans and the Flyers’ bench thought so.
“I didn’t get an explanation, no,’’ said Patrick, after ref Kyle Rehman apparently couldn’t see the puck and called the stoppage. “Obviously when you score it gives you momentum. It’s disappointing. I guess everybody makes mistakes.’’
Ivan Provorov liked the way his team played. They just couldn’t solve Murray. One goal on 51 shots is below par performance.
“I thought we played great,’’ Provorov said. “We played hard, competed, a lot of traffic at the net. It was just one of those games where we couldn’t get one by him.
“I think if we continue to play like this every game, we’ll win a lot.’’
Guentzel scored at 14:46 of the third period to put the game out of reach.
Hart didn’t sound discouraged by the outcome but said he could have played better, particularly on the Crosby goal.
“We have dark stands when it goes up on the glass,’’ Hart said. “It’s kind of hard to see. I lost it in the air. I think everybody else did, too. The guy who knew where it was happened to be was Crosby.
“I have to be better at the end of the day.’’
Couturier said not scoring in the second period hurt the Flyers’ chances.
“It probably would have been a different game (if the Patrick play had turned out differently),’’ Couturier said. “We would have been in the third (period) down one. But if we play like this, we’ll get some good results.’’
>Malkin match penalty
Malkin received a match penalty with 4:54 to play when he swung his stick and hit Michael Raffl in the head. Jake Voracek scored on the power play to ruin Murray’s shutout bid.
>New scoreboard on the horizon
Your TV sets at home keep getting bigger and better, so why shouldn’t the scoreboard at the Wells Fargo Center do the same?
When the Flyers and 76ers begin play next season at the Wells Fargo Center, they will be competing under the glow of the most technologically advanced arena scoreboard in the world.
Comcast Spectacor and ANC announced today that the first-ever Kinetic 4K center-hung entertainment system is in development and will be installed in time for the 2019-2020 season.
Kris Letang scored into an empty net with seconds remaining. . .Crosby’s goal was the 40th of his career in 65 games against the Flyers. He has a total of 95 points vs. Philly in those contests. . .Oskar Lindblom was shaken up at 2:36 of the second period when he slid into defenseman Jack Johnson’s knee and had to be helped off the ice. He later returned to the game after going through NHL concussion protocol.