PHILADELPHIA – A win over the Pittsburgh Penguins is uncommon enough, but when a team crafts a shutout the way the Flyers did on Tuesday night, well, that’s rare artwork.
While goaltender Brian Elliott did deserve a lot of the credit in Philadelphia’s 3-0 win at the Wells Fargo Center, it was team defense which drew raves.
It stymied the high-powered Sidney Crosby-Evgeni Malkin offense at every turn. This was just the second time Pittsburgh has been blanked all season.
And the Penguins registered only 19 shots, just the second time they’ve been held under 20 all season.
Jake Voracek and James van Riemsdyk came up with timely goals to give Elliott all the offense he needed.
It was the defense which provided the impetus for this win, holding Crosby to two shots and Malkin to one.
“It (the defense) was really strong,’’ said Elliott, who posted career shutout No. 39. “I thought we were really defensive-minded, staying over top of guys, allowing our ‘D’ to keep up with the play. I thought we really frustrated them.
“You know, you give them time and space and they can make plays. But we took it away, we just moved our feet and I think that was key to the game.’’
The win sends the Flyers to the bye week/NHL All-Star break with a record of 27-17-6 (60 points), virtually even with idle Columbus for the eighth and final wild card spot in the East.
Van Riemsdyk, who ended a 12-game goal drought the other night against Los Angeles, scored with 1:20 to go in the second period for the Flyers’ second goal.
JVR finished off a pinpoint pass from Travis Konecny. The puck barely eluded center Jared McCann’s stick and all van Riemsdyk had to do was tap the puck past goalie Tristan Jarry. The sequence started with center Claude Giroux getting the puck on the rush to Konecny.
Voracek opened the scoring at 5:26 of the second period for his 10th goal of the season. Sean Couturier sent a pass across the slot and Voracek, cutting in from the left side, moved across the crease and dumped a low backhander into the net.
Elliott didn’t get all that much work but came up with some timely saves, including a point-blank shot by Brian Rust midway through the third period.
It was just the second shutout for the Flyers this season.
Rookie Joel Farabee saw a lot of playing time against Crosby and held his own.
“I’m always up for the challenge,’’ Farabee said. “He’s probably top three in the world. We knew going in we were going to have to stay above him. He likes to swing in their ‘D’ zone and kind of pick up speed.
“I thought we stayed on top of him pretty well. They didn’t really have much offense from it.’’
Added van Riemsdyk: “I thought it was a pretty mature game from us, knowing this break was coming up and you want to feel good about yourself. We talk about being in the right spots so you’re not running around. We were supporting ourselves with and without the puck. I think that makes it tough for the other team to make plays when we do that.’’
Like the rest of the Flyers, Giroux looks forward to the break.
“We had some ups and downs during the first half,’’ he said. “Those downs, we have to make sure we don’t get losses in a row, they don’t add up. Our road games have to be better. But we’re going to a break and I think it’s good to have a break mentally and physically.’’
Justin Braun scored an empty-net goal with one minute to play.
>Giroux nears milestone
Giroux’s assist was NHL career point No. 797. He’s close to joining Bob Clarke, Bill Barber and Brian Propp as the only Flyers in the 800 club. . .Ivan Provorov played in NHL game No. 296. He has yet to miss a game in his career. . .The Flyers are off until Jan. 31 when they visit Pittsburgh. They will get in one practice on Jan. 30 at Voorhees.