Half-empty or half-full?
“I think it’s a good point,” said Scott Laughton, whose late goal forced overtime before his Philadelphia Flyers fell 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.
Kris Letang was able to stuff the puck past Carter Hart’s left pad and over the goal line for the game-winner for the undermanned Penguins, at 1:54 of the extra frame at PPG Paints Arena.
“It was a hell of a game,” summed up coach Alain Vigneault afterward.
The final shots were 38-36 for Pittsburgh on a high-event night that featured 28 total high-danger scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick — 17 for Pittsburgh and 11 for Philadelphia.
Travis Konecny also scored his fourth of the year for the Flyers, on the power play. Brock McGinn and Jake Guentzel had the other goals for the Penguins in this season’s first Battle of Pennsylvania.
Though McGinn put the Flyers in a 1-0 hole just 16 seconds after the opening puck drop, Philadelphia battled back to dominate the game flow, outshooting the Penguins 17-8 in the opening frame but unable to beat Tristan Jarry.
Process Over Results
“We lost the draw, but our forechecking from there was exactly what we want,” Vigneault said of the opening goal. “Unfortunately, (Sean Couturier) went to dump it in, the puck bounced, they were able to get a deep in our zone. From there, they just got it right up top and we lost coverage. Down low guys, close to the net. Got just enough of a stick on it to get it by Carter (Hart).”
16 seconds in and we're scoring goals already!
- Ep 12: Biting, Montreal, COVID, and Penguins Sale Updateby Full Press Coverage on December 1, 2021 at 5:52 pm
Mike, Jim, and Chris […]
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 4, 2021
Down by one in the third, the Flyers were denied by Jarry on a number of quality chances before Laughton finally beat him with 2:52 left on the clock. Oskar Lindblom’s physical play forced Pittsburgh defenseman Mike Matheson to cough up the puck in the slot, right onto Laughton’s stick for a slap shot.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) November 5, 2021
It was Laughton’s second-straight game with a goal, after he bagged an insurance marker against Arizona on Tuesday. His line with Lindblom and James van Riemsdyk has been playing well on both sides of the puck all season, and dominated possession against Pittsburgh.
“The first period was one of our better periods of the year, just creating O-zone time and time with the puck,” Laughton said. “So we continue to get better and continue to talk off the ice and kind of know where our spots are at, and try and contribute on the scoresheet, give a little bit of a secondary scoring.”
Laughton’s three goals lead his line. After tying for the team scoring lead last season with 43 points in 56 games, van Riemsdyk has one goal and four assists this season. Lindblom, who has 14 hits, six blocked shots and two takeaways in the early going, has one assist and is still looking for his first goal.
The Flyers’ Identity
With many new faces in the lineup and a determination to erase the bad memories of last season, it’s taking some time to get a handle on what this year’s Flyers are all about. The 5-2-2 start seems solid — but last year’s team opened with a 6-2-1 record and was sitting at 11-4-3 at the end of February before the season went sideways.
Konecny conceded that at times on Thursday, the Flyers got sucked into playing Pittsburgh’s preferred style of game — a wide-open approach that saw lots of fast-skating, back-and-forth action and plenty of scoring chances.
So, what’s the Flyers’ style?
“Straightforward, simple hockey,” Konecny said. “Pucks in deep unless the play’s 100% at the line, or at the red line — all three lines, to be honest.
“Then, let’s just make the easy play and look for the next play, and try to play hard on their D and create opportunities.
“I thought we did that through parts of the game. It just wasn’t a full 60 minutes tonight.”
Another Metro Battle Looms
After playing a strictly divisional schedule last season, Thursday’s matchup was Philadelphia’s first of this year against a Metropolitan Division rival.
They’ll stay on the road to face another dangerous divisional foe, the Washington Capitals, on Saturday.
With a 5-1-4 record, the Capitals sit two points ahead of the Flyers in the Metro Division standings, tied for second with the New York Rangers.
The Caps are returning home from a Florida road trip where they suffered their first regulation loss of the year in Tampa on Monday, then fell 5-4 in overtime to Florida on Thursday.
Alex Ovechkin scored his league-leading 10th of the year against the Panthers, but the Caps lost forward Anthony Mantha with a shoulder injury, which was surgically repaired on Friday and will have him sidelined indefinitely.
Mantha joins forwards T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom on the injured list. And while Backstrom has been skating on his own for several weeks as he recovers from a hip injury, he isn’t expected to draw in against the Flyers when he becomes eligible to come off long-term injured reserve on Saturday.
After Saturday’s game, the Flyers will return to Wells Fargo Center to host the Toronto Maple Leafs next Wednesday, then head out for a back-to-back weekend set against Carolina and Dallas.