The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local Sports

March 16, 2014

Flyers blank Penguins to boost hopes

Philadelphia — If the Flyers continue to play as well as they did on Saturday, they’ll have little trouble making the playoffs.

Matt Read scored a pair of goals to lift the Flyers to a convincing 4-0 victory over the short-handed Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.

“We were looking for a game like that a long time ago where we make sure that everybody follows the game plan and everybody plays 60 minutes,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who had a pair of assists. “It feels pretty good.”

Scott Hartnell and Vincent Lecavalier also scored for Philadelphia, which is in the middle of a tightly bunched pack of teams battling for a playoff spot.

The Penguins, who are comfortably atop the Metropolitan Division, were shut out for the fourth time this season.

Pittsburgh played without its third- and fourth-leading scorers, Chris Kunitz (lower body) and James Neal (concussion). The Flyers neutralized Pittsburgh stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

“They did a lot of what we expected,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. “We weren’t able to handle it, and in all aspects of the game we weren’t good.”

Besides Kunitz and Neal, the Penguins continued to be without top winger Pascal Dupuis (knee) and defensemen Kris Letang (stroke) and Paul Martin (hand).

But Bylsma wouldn’t use injuries as an excuse.

“We have capable guys, guys who have done well for us before,” he said. “We have to find ways to win within our roles regardless of who’s in there. We weren’t able and ready to do that today.”

Philadelphia played like the first-place team in a matchup between two the league’s top rivals.

“We want to finish higher and want home-ice advantage,” Giroux said. “It’s there for us to take but we have to keep playing like this.”

The Flyers came out with a high-energy attack from the opening faceoff in one of their best efforts of the season.

Steve Mason made 25 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and 23rd of his career.

“Everything felt very under control,” Mason said.

Leading 2-0 after one period, Philadelphia made it 4-0 with a pair of second-period goals.

Lecavalier made it 3-0 when he scored on a breakaway after taking a stellar pass from Luke Schenn.

Then, Read tallied his second of the game by finishing a beautifully executed 3-on-1 with Giroux and Sean Couturier with 17 seconds remaining in the period to give Philadelphia a 4-0 advantage.

Couturier passed to Giroux in the slot and Giroux faked the shot before going back to Couturier, who whipped it across the ice to a wide-open Read. Read tapped home the goal past a sprawling Fleury, who was fooled by Giroux’s fake.

“It’s hard to miss those when they’re right on your stick,” Read said. “I benefited from those two making a great play.”

Mason kept Pittsburgh scoreless with a strong second period that included a point-blank stop of Jayson Megna six minutes into the period and a solid save on Simon Despres’ try from the left circle with 33 seconds left.

The Flyers jumped out to a 2-0 lead with two nice goals in the first period. Hartnell opened the scoring with a power-play goal 3:50 into the game by one-timing Giroux’s pass from the slot. The shot changed directions when hitting Brooks Orpik’s stick and went off Fleury’s left shoulder.

A little more than four minutes later, Read scored a short-handed tally on a one-timer from close range after taking a deft pass from Couturier from behind the net and firing it over Fleury’s left shoulder.

The Flyers unveiled an 8-foot, 1,300-pound statue of Hall of Fame coach Fred Shero prior to the game on the former site of the Spectrum, which is adjacent to the Wells Fargo Center. Shero coached the Flyers for seven seasons and won a pair of Stanley Cups, in 1974 and ‘75.

Shero’s son, Ray, who is the Penguins’ general manager, was among those who attended the pregame ceremony.

Notes: Kunitz, who has 59 points on the season, warmed up but didn’t play. Kunitz crashed into the goal post in the third period of Tuesday’s game against Washington. Bylsma was noncommittal when asked whether Kunitz would play today. ... G Ray Emery returned to his role backing up Mason. Emery hadn’t dressed since suffering a lower body injury Feb. 27 against San Jose. ... Crosby, who leads the NHL with 88 points, entered with 75 points in 30 career games against Philadelphia. ... The teams will play a rematch at 12:30 this afternoon in Pittsburgh.

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