PHILADELPHIA – Any time the Flyers and Penguins get together for another rendition of the Battle of Pennsylvania, there’s no such thing as home-ice advantage.
Both teams’ fan bases travel well, as typified by a large roar on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center whenever the guys in gold and black scored a goal.
It was the other way around back on Dec. 2 and Dec. 4 when the Philadelphians first skated away with a win at the Steel City and Flyers fans got to celebrate well into the wee hours of the morning at the local watering holes. Then the Flyers completed the sweep of the home-and-home with a 4-3 win back in Philly.
On Monday night, the Penguins needed only 45 seconds to get a lead they never relinquished on the way to a 4-1 victory.
So now there are five Metro Division teams – the Flyers, Islanders, Devils, Capitals and Penguins – all bunched together and separated by the thinnest of margins. Philadelphia and the Islanders have 46 points, while New Jersey, Washington and Pittsburgh have 44.
The early goal, on a power-play marker courtesy of a Sean Couturier penalty, came off the stick of Rickard Rickell by way of a pinpoint pass from Evgeni Malkin right through goalie Carter Hart’s crease.
The Penguins made it 2-0 at 7:37 on a goal by Erik Karlsson and that’s when things started to go downhill. The Flyers were back on their heels and even though they picked up a power-play goal of their own at 14:55 (Owen Tippett from Egor Zamula), they gave that one right back in the second period when the Penguins picked up a goal from Chad Ruhwedel at 8:07.
“I thought coming out of it 2-1 was a positive for us,” coach John Tortorella said. “The third goal is the one that gets you. We spent too much time in our end. We didn’t come out clean enough. You give that team second opportunities on breakouts and soon or later momentum changes.
“We fought. We just struggled to score. We just don’t have enough people going offensively. They were the better team.”
Malkin scored at 4:29 of the third to make it 4-1.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang suffered a nasty gash to his forehand by way of a high stick from the Flyers’ Garnet Hathaway. A pretty spirited scrum commenced. Hathaway got four minutes for high sticking.
Alex Nedeljkovic picked up the win in goal for Pittsburgh.
“Giving up the early one on the power play allowed their skill guys to get feeling it a little bit in the sense they were making plays,” Travis Sanheim said. “Wish we would have gotten one in the second to make it a little bit closer.”
The Flyers gave up a season-high 40 shots. Not a formula for success.
“I think we just gave them too much time in our zone,” said Tippett. “I think we could have done a better job of eliminating plays earlier.”
Hart said it’s not easy to catch up once you get behind a skilled team like Pittsburgh.
“We were on the (penalty) kill a lot to start the game,” he said. “Those guys were getting a lot of touches so I’m sure they were feeling good about their game. They made some plays.”
>Reaction to Drysdale-Gauthier trade
During the game, the Flyers announced they have acquired defenseman Jamie Drysdale and a second-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft in exchange for 2022 first-round pick (fifth overall) Cutter Gauthier.
Gauthier made it known he didn’t want to play for the Flyers. Tortorella said he was pleased to get Drysdale, a righthanded defenseman, in return.
“I just talked to Jamie (on the phone),” Tortorella said. “Watched some tape on him. We’re really excited about the opportunity. We’re going to put him on the power play right away. The kid’s head is spinning right now. It’s his first time at this (getting traded).
Tortorella’s reaction to Gauthier not wanting to play in Philly?
“Then we don’t want you,” the coach said.
“I don’t know him from a hole in the wall. I’d rather talk about Jamie. He’s the one coming here. It is such a good age (21) for us. He has skill, lateral movement. It’s such a good deal for us.”
Sanheim said the Flyers don’t need any unhappy campers in their camp.
“I just got the news as I walked out of the room,” Sanheim said. “If somebody doesn’t want to be here, we’re happy to have someone who does. Looking forward to seeing what he (Drysdale) can bring. First few words I heard are he’s a really good skater. Obviously on the back end we’re trying to get younger. I think he’s going to be a good piece.”
Said Hart: “I’ve heard about him (Drysdale). I wish him the best. I think we have a pretty good player coming back in Drysdale. I hear he’s a great dude.”
The Flyers entered the game having allowed only 17 power-play goals on 124 chances for an 86.3 percent success kill rate. . .While leading the league in scoring 10 shorthanded goals, they are also among the NHL leaders in shorthanded goals allowed with just two. . .The Flyers finish up a four-game homestand on Wednesday night at home against the Montreal Canadiens.