Malkin's 50th goal helps Penguins past Flyers

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


There was some talk before Saturday's showdown between the Penguins and Flyers that Pittsburgh stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin wouldn't play in the meaningless contest, instead staying preserved for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Instead, Philadelphia's brightest star sat out, while the Penguins' dynamic duo put on a show.
Malkin registered his 50th goal of the season and Crosby notched the game-winner as the Penguins beat the Flyers, 4-2, giving them a victory over their biggest rival for the first time in six tries at Consol Energy Center.
"It was very important to see Geno get 50," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Especially after he missed last year with the injury, it was great to see him get that."
The Penguins and Flyers will meet in the first round of the playoffs, with Game 1 taking place at Consol Energy Center, almost certainly on Wednesday.
"It's going to be a bloodbath," Philadelphia left wing Scott Hartnell said.
Malkin ran away with the scoring title, finishing with 109 points for his second career Art Ross Trophy. His 50 goals mark a career high.
The moment Penguins fans had been waiting for came with 12 seconds remaining in the second period, when Malkin took a pass from defenseman Kris Letang, skated into Philadelphia territory and rammed a wrist shot past goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for his 50th tally. He received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd, which chanted "M-V-P" in his honor.
"We know our offense is really, really good right now," right wing Craig Adams said. "Goals are harder to come by in the playoffs, and we're aware of that. But we also know how much talent we have on this team."
As expected, the game was physical throughout and Penguins center Joe Vitale was forced to answer the Flyers' challenge.
Late in last Sunday's 6-4 Philadelphia win, Vitale dished out a devastating check to Philadelphia center Danny Briere, who remains out with a back injury. Following that game, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette called Penguins coach Dan Bylsma "gutless" for having his fourth line on the ice when Briere was injured.
It figured that Vitale would be forced to fight.
He did so with impressive ease.
Vitale was challenged to a fight in the first period by Philadelphia left wing Harry Zolnierczyk. Although hardly a known commodity in fights, Vitale pummeled Zolnierczyk with a barrage of right hands, forcing officials to immediately jump in.
The game had an edgy feel throughout, largely because both of the team's enforcers - Pittsburgh's Eric Godard and Philadelphia's Jody Shelley - were dressed.
Still, the game had an odd feel because it meant nothing to the standings.
"It was definitely a little strange," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "I mean, both teams were playing hard. But I wouldn't say it was a real physical game. Just a different kind of game."
The Flyers agreed.
"It was a tough game to play," Flyers right wing Jaromir Jagr said. "You want to win, but at the same time, you don't want anybody suffering serious injuries. So it was weird for both teams."
Although plenty of hard hits and words were exchanged throughout the contest, the game did not get out of hand.
Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis scored his 25th goal of the season - a career high - to start the scoring, and that point gave him a league-leading 17-game scoring streak to finish the season.
Philadelphia's Brayden Schenn evened the game late in the first.
Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz and Jagr traded goals in the second period, but Crosby and Malkin scored late in the second to give the Penguins a two-goal lead they would not relinquish.
Malkin is the ninth player in Penguins' history to score 50 goals in a season, and the first since Crosby did it two years ago.
Handling Pittsburgh's dynamic offense will be key to Philadelphia's attempt at a series victory when the playoffs begin.
"We need to score more goals than them," Jagr said. "They have a great team offensively, no question about it. They have the top two guys. They're the favorite."
The game was played before the 251st straight sellout at Consol Energy Center.
NOTES: The Penguins conducted their annual "shirts off their backs" promotion at Consol Energy Center, as 23 fans were picked to come on the ice and receive game-uniforms following the game.