Monday, October 22, 2012

(Fake) GAME 3 of 82: Persistence is the name of the game as Philly downs the Pens in OT

With a tally in each column through the first two games of the season, Philadelphia geared up for their biggest matchup yet of the 2012-'13 season as their hated rivals, the Pittsbugh Penguins came to town. Neither team got better since their last meeting in the playoffs, as the Flyers lost multiple defensemen to free agency or injury, and the Pens traded one of their best forwards, Jordan Staal to Carolina. But at the end of the day, it wasn't who wasn't on the ice Thursday night, but who made plays on it.

Extremely uncharacteristic of the in-state rivals, there were ZERO hits in the first period. The game seemed to focus more on finesse rather than fortitude, which made the opening twenty minutes fly by. Philadelphia led in shots (7-4), scoring chances and time on attack, but the lone goal belonged to the Penguins James Neal as he beat Bryzgalov with a wrister short side with about three minutes left.

Both teams racked up the chances in the second, although neither capitalized. But very early in the third after a blast from the point from the league's reigning MVP, Evgeni Malkin, and down 0-2, the Flyers looked dead in the water. Amazingly though, Philly battled back. Following a shot that rang off the post from Matt Read, Brayden Coburn finally cashed in from the point after Claude Giroux kicked it back off the faceoff. And then about two minutes later, Scott Hartnell walked into the Pittsburgh zone relatively untouched and slapped the puck over Marc-Andre Fleury's right shoulder to tie it up, leading to overtime. In the extra period, the Pens dominated in shots. Peppering the embattled Russian goaltender multiple times as the majority of time was spent in his face. However, to win only one shot needs to hit the twine and as Scott Hartnell deaked Kris Letang entering Penguin territory, he wound up and fired a lazer between Flower's legs for the game winner.

What could've been a complete disaster with the talent on this team, turned out to be pretty enjoyable (and for someone who is watching a simulated video game play out, that's saying something). Bird Dog put the team on his back, Bryzgalov locked down in the face of adversity and the ailing defense practically shut down Sidney Crosby, so all-in-all it's pretty easy to consider this one a total victory. If the team can ride this momentum through the entire opening month of the season, they'll no doubt be sitting pretty in the East.

Next game is (technically) Saturday, October 20th against the Winnipeg Jets. I'm obviously a little behind the times with this (long weekend), so more likely it'll just be before Thursday.

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