The Penguins are better than the Flyers. The only real way to refute that is to expect Philadelphia to win three straight games — two of them in Pittsburgh, and after a 5-0 dismembering in Game 4 Wednesday night, Philly seems destined to allow a 3-1 series deficit into a series defeat.
The Flyers defense was short-handed before the puck even dropped, as newly-named Selke Award nominee Sean Couturier missed the contest with an injury he sustained in practice. Whether his presence would have made a difference seems unlikely, but Pittsburgh continues to flex its playoff muscles, turning into another gear in the postseason (just as they did last year en route to a Stanley Cup championship).
And just as he was last year — and in Game 1 — Penguins netminder Matt Murray was brilliant stopping all 26 Flyers shots on goal.
As the final frame opened, Philly needed four goals in the third period to even make things interesting — a task they had done a few times this season most recently in January against the Islanders. They didn’t get any.
Game 4 started where Game 3 left off — with the Flyers (Matt Read) committing a penalty and the PK unit unable to stop the Penguins top-ranked power play offense. Just four and a half minutes in, Evgeni Malkin found nylon with a wrister near the net (from Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel) to put Pittsburgh ahead 1-0 early.
The second Penguins goal came as a huge deflation, following a fury of Flyers shots, chances and possession time in the Pittsburgh zone, an errant pass led to an odd-man rush that allowed Kessel to score after a perfect pass from Malkin.
A merciful delay of game penalty on the Pens gave Philly a power play to end the first but a Wayne Simmons slash took away the golden opportunity eight seconds in.
Trailing 2-0 early in the second stanza, the Flyers got their first real man advantage but squandered it without creating a single scoring opportunity. As has been the case for two of the three games this series, a third goal came for the Penguins on a slapshot in the middle of a sloppy second period. The Kris Letang goal (assisted by Jake Guentzel) brought Michal Neuvirth into his first playoff game of the year as Philadelphia tried to find a way to fight their way out of a very deep hole.
The carnage continued, care of Crosby (assisted by Guentzel and Dominik Simon) and his shifty stick as a turnover led to a quick wraparound goal as Neuvirth looked the wrong way to put Pittsburgh ahead 4-0.
The Penguins finally made a noticable mistake, as a Malkin high stick earned Philadelphia four minutes of power play time. But just as its first time up a man, virtually no offense was produced.
Just to add insult to injury, Riley Sheahan netted a fifth goal from Olli Maatta in the period’s closing minutes.