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Penguins dismantle Philadelphia 7-0 in Game 1

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Sidney Crosby recorded his third-career postseason hat trick, while Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust, Carl Hagelin and Jake Guentzel each added goals, as Pittsburgh annhilated the Flyers 7-0 in Game 1 of the NHL playoffs opening round Wednesday night at PPG Paints Arena.

They dazzled.  They dominated.  They were determined.

The Penguins dropped a hammer of brutal reality on the Philadelphia Flyers, punching home seven unanswered goals in front of a raucous home crowd to begin the chase for something never seen in Pittsburgh sports history: three-straight championships.

“This was a good way to start, there’s no doubt about that,” said Bryan Rust, who scored the game-winning goal—a finish at the doorstep of goalie Brian Elliott, off the feed from Kris Letang just 2:38 into the game.

“Overall, I think it was a real good effort on our part,” Mike Sullivan said.  “We understand it is one game, but we certainly feel good about ourselves tonight.”

The Pens made life for Elliott a living hell Wednesday night, punching in five goals on the Flyers’ netminder, chasing him from the game in favor of backup Petr Mrazek after 29 minutes of facing 19 total shots.  Mrazek surrendered two more goals on 14 shots.

“They came hard at us,” said Elliott, who gave up 16 of the 27 total goals that the Pens scored on Philadelphia in five games on the year (four regular season).  “They did everything that we focused on, but they did it really well.  They beat us at every aspect tonight.  Everybody just has to get better.”

Matt Murray continued his excellence between the postseason pipes, pitching his third-consecutive playoff shutout, stopping all 24 shots he faced, including a momentum-swinging glove save off of what looked like an open layup for Scott Laughton on the backdoor.  The forward hesitated with the puck and was robbed by the diving Murray.  Minutes later, Carl Hagelin would take the wind from Philadelphia’s sails with a quick finish, giving the Pens a 2-0 lead.

“Every game is a chance to reset so it doesn’t matter what happened in the past, and we take that mindset into every game.” said Murray, who secured his 23rd postseason win in 32 starts, boasting a dominating 1.95 GAA in that span.

Jake Guentzel added a second period goal, knocking in his 14th career postseason goal in just 26 games played.  He also finished with three assists.

“This is a rivalry game and obviously we get up for them,” Guentzel explained.  “[The puck] is going in for us right now and hopefully it keeps coming.”

The stars shined bright

Evgeni Malkin exemplified raw strength, speed and determination, corralling a puck in the defensive end, then pushing past one defender at center ice, then a hapless defenseman Travis Sanheim inside the blue line, where Geno finished with a backhand top-shelf goal with just under six minutes left in the first period.

Crosby closed the night with three straight goals, including his patented move, transforming his hockey stick into a baseball bat, swatting a Brian Dumoulin shot to the net out of mid-air, with the puck breezing over Elliott’s shoulder and into the net.

“They are two highlight-type goals from elite players.  There aren’t too many guys that can make those types of plays,” said Sullivan of Malkin and Crosby’s spectacular goals.  “Sometimes we marvel at what they do all day, but I think those two goals are an indication of just how talented they are.  Sometimes you take it for granted because we see it a number of times throughout the season.  They’re exciting to watch and those are certainly inspirational-type goals to the team.”

“We played good,” said the always modest Crosby, who now has 60 goals in his illustrious postseason career.  “We got some guys that stepped up for us in different spots tonight.”

Sid talked about his baseball swing, and the havoc it has been creating on goalies this year.

“You go to the net and sometimes they end up there,” he said when describing his swing on the puck, “they don’t always go in, so it’s great to see one go in.  You got to go to the net this time of year, and that’s usually where pucks are.”

Defensive supremacy

The Penguins pieced together a defensive campaign that coach Sullivan referred to as, “good of a commitment to playing defense as we’ve had.”

From stuffing all four Flyer power plays, to blocking 24 shots, adding nine takeaways with a relentless press on Philadelphia’s offensive attack, Pittsburgh kept the ice tilted for 60-minutes.

“It helped, us having the puck most of the game, said Justin Schultz.  Obviously, we are at our best when we have the puck and playing with speed.”

“I think this was a good start,” said Kris Letang, who finished +4 with an assist in 21:57 of ice time in his first playoff game since the 2015-16 season.  “We did a lot of things well, but I think in the first they had two or three quality scoring chances.  They are a very dangerous rush team so we have to clean up that part of the game and we’ll be going in the right direction.”

Value in winning game 1

The history books no the importance of taking Game 1.  A whopping 76.4% of home teams that take the opening game in the first round advanced to the next round. 

After the moneyline

The Penguins came in as a stout -200 favorite, as well as easily taking the puck line (-1.5) at +115.

The total, which was set at six goals, sailed over thanks to the touchdown score.

Up next

Pittsburgh will play host to the Flyers for game 2 Friday night.  Puck drops at 7 PM.

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