Read Scores Twice As Flyers Shut Out Penguins
PHILADELPHIA -- The Flyers needed to find a way to get back on track after a pair of losses.
They did just that Saturday afternoon. Facing the Penguins at home, the Flyers played one of their best games all season, shutting out Pittsburgh 4-0.
It was the Flyers' first regular season shutout of the Penguins since April 6, 2008, and just the 10th time in 46 games they held Sidney Crosby without a point.
Getting a win like that felt pretty good to captain Claude Giroux.
“I think we were looking for a game like that a long time ago to make sure that everybody follows the game plan, and everybody plays 60 minutes," Giroux said.
The Flyers got off to a great start in what was the beginning of arguably their toughest stretch of the season, and they wasted little time in doing so.
Just 3:50 into the game following a Simon Despres high-sticking penalty, the Flyers jumped on an injury depleted Penguins squad and struck first. Scott Hartnell took a feed from Giroux and roofed the puck above Marc-Andre Fleury’s right shoulder for his 16th goal of the season.
The first period was as dominating a performance that the Flyers could have had. The Flyers outshot Pittsburgh 12-7 and won 13 of 25 face-offs (10 of 14 at even strength)..
Overall, the Flyers outshot Pittsburgh 40-25 and won 56% of the face-offs (31 of 55).
Special teams was the big storyline of the game, especially with Pittsburgh coming in ranked first in the league on both the power play and the penalty kill.
The Flyers held Pittsburgh scoreless in all five power-play attempts they had on the afternoon and have now successfully killed 14 of 15 penalties against the Penguins this season.
"I think Lappy (assistant coach Ian Laperriere) did some scouting video and we did the right little things, putting our sticks in the passing lanes and blocking shots," Sean Couturier told reporters. "Special teams were huge tonight; even the power play did a good job."
Matt Read added another special teams goal before the period was through, only this time, the Flyers were on the penalty kill.
The goal was set up by a spectacular forecheck from Couturier behind Pittsburgh’s net as he beat Jussi Jokinen to the puck, skated to the other side, and fed a pass to Read, who was all alone in the slot. It was only the fifth shorthanded goal allowed by the Penguins all season, who are among the top five in the NHL.
The goal was the first of Read’s two on the day, giving him 18 on the season. His second came in the closing seconds of the second period off a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play from Giroux and Couturier.
Coach Craig Berube was impressed with Read’s performance on the afternoon, citing his speed and purpose on the ice.
“He was all over the place,” he said. “He was good with the puck, fast and on top of things.”
Giroux and Couturier finished the day with two assists each. With the two points, Giroux now has 67 on the season and is currently tied with Patrick Kane, Corey Perry and Kyle Okposo for sixth in the league in scoring.
Vincent Lecavalier scored the other goal on the day for the Flyers on a breakaway at the 14-minute mark of the second period. Luke Schenn sprung Lecavalier into the open behind Pittsburgh’s defense, and despite being hooked by Matt Niskanen, he was able to put it past Fleury.
The goal was Lecavalier’s 15th on the season. He is just two goals shy of 400 for his career.
Steve Mason earned his fourth shutout of the season, and his second in a little over a month. Because he didn’t see a lot of work and had a strong outing, Mason could be called upon to start tomorrow’s back end of the home and home in Pittsburgh.
The dangerous scoring duo for Pittsburgh of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were held without a point. Berube made a switch this game, matching Couturier with Crosby instead of Malkin.
“I just like him," Berube said. "I just like his positioning on him and taking his speed away and stuff.
"(Couturier has) a good stick, and I think with Sid, he’s so powerful and fast and quick and if you get on the wrong side of him, and you’re not positionally really sound, he’ll make you look stupid."
Earning a big two points, the Flyers will look to carry this victory and the momentum from it into Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon as they continue their push toward the playoffs.
With the average minimum of points for an Eastern Conference playoff team being 92 since the introduction of the shootout seven seasons ago, the Flyers still have a lot of work to do. Needing 17 of the next 32 available points to reach this level, the Flyers got off to a good start on Saturday.