O LP PITTSBURGH – With a strong third period and late rally, the Flyers made their point.
That said, they would like to have taken home two of them.
Down 3-1 in the closing stages of the second period, the Flyers rallied with a goal from Tyler Pitlick and later one from Scott Laughton in the third period to tie it.
But in overtime, their old nemesis, Sidney Crosby, scored at the 55 second mark and the Flyers had to settle for a single point in a 4-3 loss on Friday night at PPG Paints Arena.
“It’s a game you have to expect after a nine-day break,’’ coach Alain Vigneault said. “Both teams were a little off in their execution in the first so there weren’t a lot of opportunities on both sides.
“We slipped, I thought, in the second period but in the third we totally dominated. We didn’t give them anything.’’
Indeed. The Flyers outshot the home team, 17-4, for those 20 minutes.
The Flyers didn’t appear to be a team that had been off for nine days when they took a 1-0 first period lead. They resembled the team that entered the bye-week/NHL All-Star break with a 3-0 win on Jan. 22 in Philadelphia.
But in the second period, the Flyers reverted to the disorganized form which led to a 7-1 rout at Pittsburgh back on Oct. 29, this time allowing three goals in a span of 7:08.
The Flyers, however, did not give up. They picked up a goal from Pitlick with 3:31 left in the second, then another from Laughton at 2:20 of the third.
“There’s a lot we can take from that third period,’’ Kevin Hayes said. “We completely tilted the ice. I think we just played the right system. If we play the way we did in the third, we’ll be playing hockey for awhile.’’
Added Matt Niskanen about the third period: “We were right on top of them with our checking and our system. We forced a lot of turnovers. They weren’t able to gain entry.’’
At the start, the Flyers did manage to keep their composure at least for the first 20 minutes.
On this night, the Flyers held the high-scoring Penguins scoreless in the opening period and allowed them only three shots.
And the Flyers took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by Jake Voracek with 27.3 seconds left in the stanza.
Voracek scored his 11th goal of the season courtesy of a pinpoint cross-slot pass from Niskanen. That marker came against goalie Tristan Jarry.
“It wasn’t a bad period for us after a long break and it was nice for us to get a goal there at the end of the period,’’ Niskanen said.
On the goal, everything worked in the Flyers’ favor.
“It was a point shot which led to a scramble,’’ Niskanen said. “The puck just happened to pop over to my forehand and Jake was hiding out at the back door. I was able to slide the puck across and he had an open net.”
The second period was a much different story. Goalie Brian Elliott had a shutout streak of 86 minutes, 55 seconds vs. the Penguins ended when Evgeni Malkin scored from close range at 3:55.
Then, with Phil Myers in the penalty box, Pittsburgh struck again at 5:16. Crosby set up Bryan Rust for a shot which deflected off a Flyer defenseman before entering the net.
Another penalty led to the Pens’ third goal at 11:03. This time, with Travis Konecny off, Crosby found Kris Letang open in the right circle. Elliott was slow getting over and Letang’s wide-angle shot beat Elliott short side for a 3-1 lead.
But Letang gave that one back at 16:29. He turned over the puck and Pitlick made him pay.
Laughton tied it when Hayes’ entry try clicked off Pitlick and right to the goalmouth for an easy tap-in.
“I thought we played really well in the third period,’’ Pitlick said.
Laughton said the game was sort of a mixed bag.
“I think we can take a lot from it,’’ he said. “We got a point. The third, I thought we skated really well, forced them to turn the puck over, got some really good opportunities. I think we can build off of this.’’
Ivan Provorov played in his 297th straight game. He has not missed a game in his career. He is slated to play in his 300th consecutive match on Thursday at home vs. the New Jersey Devils.
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