Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Evgeni Malkin Scores Two, but Flyers Snap Penguins' 12-Game Streak

The heavyweight matchup between the NHL's top two teams -- and bitter rivals -- did not disappoint and came down to the last minute Tuesday night. Behind a solid defensive effort, the Flyersdefeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2, snapping the Penguins' 12-game win streak. Intensity picked up in the second and third periods, leading to a frenzied, playoff-like atmosphere by the sellout Philadelphia crowd.

The win leapfrogged the Flyers to the top of the NHL standings with 45 points, while the Penguins remain stagnant with 44. The Flyers played well defensively during critical junctures of the game, blocking a handful of shots and preventing the Penguins from finding any consistent momentum. The Penguins were unable to forecheck consistently, while the Flyers played much better 5-on-5 hockey. 

Ultimately, the Penguins unraveled by taking too many penalties in the last two periods. 

The Penguins pulled goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in the waning moments on a power play to garner a two-man advantage, but were unable to capitalize. 

Penguins' star forward Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup after missing the team's last four games due to a knee injury. While Malkin's return was impressive offensively -- scoring both goals for Pittsburgh, all coming on the power play -- he hurt his team by taking an ill-advised penalty for interference at the 9:06 mark in the third period. 

The retaliation penalty led to the Flyers' game-winning power-play goal by Scott Hartnell, who deflected a Chris Pronger shot that Fleury had no chance at stopping. Malkin, who has had trouble staying consistent in long spurts throughout his career, showed the good and bad to his game on Tuesday -- scoring two goals, but making poor passes and showing imprudence with his costly penalty. 

While one streak ended for the Penguins, another continued on Tuesday. Captain Sidney Crosbyextended his points streak to 19 games by assisting on both Malkin goals. It tied his career-best point streak, meaning Crosby goes into Wednesday trying to set a personal record against theRangers.

Philadelphia goaltender Brian Boucher got the win and played well in net. He won his fifth game in his last six starts. His counterpart, Fleury, also played well for the Penguins in net -- having to face an onslaught of shots in the game, many coming off the seven Philadelphia power plays.

Although Malkin returned to the lineup, the Penguins missed first-line forward Chris Kunitz, who was scratched from the game with an undisclosed injury.

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