In a memorable (but for many, also forgettable) Game 6 in Philadelphia, the Penguins proved too opportunistic — and talented — for the fledgling Flyers to defeat to force a Game 7, faltering 8-5 to end their up and down season.
If nothing else, Sunday afternoon’s tilt between the Penguins and Flyers was a damn good hockey game… for 50 minutes at least.
The Flyers blew 1-0 and 4-2 leads as a physical game between two hated rivals came down to the final 20 minutes, tied at 4 at the Wells Fargo Center in front of an emotionally drained crowd.
And then just 30 seconds into the most importand period of hockey this season, Ivan Provorov turned the puck over, and Jake Guentzel put the Penguins ahead 5-4.
A golden opportunity came 10 minutes later, as the Flyers were given just over a minute of 4-on-3 time looking to find a way to tie things. When two shots on net yielded no equalizer, the Penguins took advantage of a suspiscious no-call on a trip of Sean Couturier and added a sixth and seventh goal seconds apart — both scored by Jake Guentzel (giving him four on the game).
A stat-padding goal came as Couturier secured a playoff hat trick (to go along with two assists for a give-point night) with just a few minutes to go in the Flyers’ inconsistent season. A Brian Rust empty netter for Pittsburgh would follow (along with beer cans and rally towels in true Philly fashion).
Ironically, it was a fast start at the Wells Fargo Center for the Flyers. In a series where every first-goal scoring team has won, a ferocious start by Philly led to several scoring tries early. A mess at the net after a Wayne Simmons shot off the post longered in from of Matt Murry. Couturier cleaned it up firing the puck into the net giving the Flyers their first lead at home in the series 1-0. Through the action packed first six minutes the Flyers had out-shot Pittsburgh 7-1, with a 14-1 edge in attempts as well.
It wouldn’t last long. A faceoff in the Flyers defensive zone following a TV time out went to Pittsburgh, which seconds later flipped the pick to Sidney Crosby who was able to fire the puck past Michal Neuvirth on a rebound off fo Kris Letangs shot from the point.
Tied at 1-all, Pittsbugh once again seized control of the puck after a Shayne Gostisbehere turnover. And 47 seconds after Crosby’s equalizer, Carl Hagelin put the Penguins back where they are used to being in South Philly — ahead.
With all the energy drained from the building and a smoldering Penguins forecheck harrassing the Flyers, somehow, Andrew MacDonald was able to fire a slapshot from the point by Murray to even things at 2-apiece inside the four minute mark (from Provorov and Sean Couturier).
After successfully killing the game’s first power play as the second period began, the playoff coming out party for Couturier continued, as Matt Read forced a turnover in the neutral zone just after the penalty had ended and found Couts streaking toward the net on a breakaway. The forward deked the puck around Murray to put the Flyers ahead again, 3-2.
Breathing room, for anxious Flyers’ fans everywhere came after yet another breakaway opportunity, with Scott Laughton firing a shot just left of Murray to put Philly up 4-2 before leaping into the boards to give the home team much-needed insurance against the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Couturier collected his fourth point with the primary assist in the fourth goal.
The insurance would prove necessary as seconds later another Flyers turnover led to a Pens score — this one coming off the stick of Patrick Hornqvist. And again with under a minute left in the second, when a pair of horrible Radko Gudas turnovers in Pittsburgh’s offensive zone led to a Guentzel score and a 4-4 tie.