PITTSBURGH -- We’ve pretty much seen it all when the Flyers and Penguins get together for a little pond hockey.
Three-goal deficits overcome. Melees involving both benches. Fifty-five goals in the previous seven regular-season encounters, alone.
What we haven’t seen is great goaltending and low scoring.
That was on the agenda Sunday at CONSOL Energy Center as the Penguins stretched their winning streak to an NHL-best 12 games with a 2-1 overtime victory.
Tyler Kennedy won it at 2:33.
Peter Laviolette’s club, starved for points in a fleeting effort to snare a playoff berth, picked up one, but deserved two in honor of Ilya Bryzgalov.
He was fantastic with 33 saves as the Flyers remained five points behind the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference standings, though they are now 13th.
“Bryz made some key saves for us,” Flyer captain Claude Giroux said. “We could have won that game, 1-0.”
Nope. Boston tried that last week and lost. You’re not going to shut the Penguins out.
“Why? It was right there within our reach with six minutes to play,” Max Talbot argued. “Yes, it is possible.”
When the Penguins came with a strong push in the third, the Flyers went into a defensive shell. They failed to generate offensive chances and it cost them dearly.
“They went after it,” Talbot said. “They were down a goal, they wanted to tie the game. They played aggressively. We blocked a lot of shots. We were all right for six minutes until we got that 3 on 5.”
That was the turning point.
First, a slash from Wayne Simmonds that shattered Brooks Orpik’s stick. Then a hook from Kimmo Timonen on Chris Kunitz’s partial breakway that Bryzgalov actually saved.
That set up a 1:37 two-man advantage for Pittsburgh with 6:45 left in regulation.
“They made a pretty nice play and I actually tried giving them a penalty shot, but they gave me a penalty,” Timonen said, of his hook on Kunitz, who split Timonen and Braydon Coburn.
Sidney Crosby tied it on the subsequent 5 on 3 at 13:46 with a shot from the right circle.
“The 3 on 5 killed us with that goal,” Talbot said. “It’s disappointing. We have to look at the positive and come out of here with a point.”
Those two calls ruined an otherwise perfect game plan, for the most part. The Flyers played a patient game, staying away from anything risky in the middle of the ice. No stretch passes. Keep everything to the outside.
It worked exceptionally well.
“Our guys played hard,” Laviolette said. “I thought the third period was going the way we wanted to go until the penalty.”
The Flyers, who were without Danny Briere (upper-body injury), held the slimmest of leads heading into the final period, 1-0. Keep in mind, the Flyers came into play 11-0-1 when leading after two periods.
Problem is, far too often this season, they were either tied or trailed after two stanzas.
Bryzgalov was outstanding with critical saves throughout on the NHL’s top-two scoring leaders – Crosby (53 points) and Kunitz (41).
“Tough 5 on 3,” Claude Giroux said. “The last two games here, we gave them 5 on 3s at the end of the third. It’s frustrating to see that. We need to find a way to get it done. We still got a point but we needed two.”
Unlike virtually every other game played here, the opening period lacked any kind of excitement.
Past the halfway mark, there was only five combined shots. Neither team had any true, sterling scoring chances, although Matt Read did fan on an open shot in the slot to that point.
Marc-Andre Fleury’s best save came late on Brayden Schenn against an off-man rush and then in transition, Bryzgalov, who faced nine shots, got a glove deflection on Pascal Dupuis.
The Flyers also had to kill off a late penalty and did a nice job clogging shooting lanes on the Penguins, even though they were unable to ice the puck even once.
“We played a good road game,” Talbot said. “Got a good third man and kept it simple.
A botched play by Giroux resulted in the first goal of the game at 14:09 that period on the power play.
Coming into the zone, Giroux tried a pass across the middle that Tanner Glass broke up. The puck, however, went right back to Giroux and he merely threw it on net.
Hard to figure what Fleury was doing, because the puck skipped inside the left post on him amid gasps from the crowd.
It was Giroux’s 10th goal and third in five games.
Bryzgalov continued to look very sharp in goal with another 13 saves, two of them right in his face, as he stopped Craig Adams tip early and a bouncing tip from Crosby near the period’s end.
“I thought our guys did a real good job,” Laviolette said. “There weren’t a lot of chances. We didn’t generate a lot, either.
“It was one of those tight-checking games both ways. It was good up until that [penalty].”