PITTSBURGH – With a 5-4 overtime win Sunday, Pittsburgh swept the season series from the Flyers for the first time since 2006-07.
The Flyers’ latest loss, however, left them feeling they would stand head-to-head with their in-state rivals if they should meet in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Flyers outshot the host Penguins (45-32), won 61 percent of the faceoffs, and outhit them (21-19).
“We had a lot of good stretches of play and just a couple of breakdowns here and there,” Jordan Weal said after collecting a career-high three points. “They’ve got some really good players on that side and they capitalized on their opportunities. We haven’t played a 60-minute game against that team yet, but if we meet them down the road, I think we’ll be able to put our full foot forward.”
If the Flyers face the Penguins in the playoffs, “it would be a good match,” Weal said. “Playing teams in the division is always a tough battle because you play them so many times during the year. You know everybody’s ins and outs. That’s what makes it fun.”
Added Weal: “You just go out there and battle, and whoever wants it more usually comes out on top. They’re a good squad and we’re a good team as well.”
Despite losing all four games to Pittsburgh, Brandon Manning said the Flyers “have confidence against this team. For me, it’s a fun building to play in and for everyone, the rivalry is always there. You’re playing against [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin and it’s fun to try to shut those guys down and play against them. I think it would be a pretty exciting series and a good matchup as well.”
Crosby (nine) and Malkin (five) combined for 14 points in the four games against the Flyers this season, while Philadelphia’s two big guns – Claude Giroux (four) and Jake Voracek (one) – had just five points against the Penguins.
The Flyers (38-25-13) would need to tighten their defense and their goaltending if they met Pittsburgh (43-27-6) in the post-season. They allowed five goals in each of their four losses to the Penguins this season.
“It just means if we do play them again, they’re going to be even hungrier,” Penguins winger Bryan Rust said.
Defense turns offensive
First-period goals by Travis Sanheim and Manning gave Flyers defensemen 46 goals this season. That is tied for second in the NHL and the most for the franchise’s blue-line group since 1992-93, when Garry Galley (13 goals) and the defenders scored 52 goals.
Coach Dave Hakstol didn’t want to speculate whether Michal Neuvirth will be ready to return Tuesday in Dallas or Wednesday in Denver. “We’ll see where we’re at,” he said. … Defenseman Ivan Provorov, perhaps showing the wear and tear of playing so many minutes, was minus-2 and is minus-6 over his last 16 games. … In two overtime games against the Penguins this season, the Flyers were outshot 6-0 in the OTs, which totaled 4 minutes and 13 seconds.