No Sidney Crosby. No problem for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Despite missing their superstar center Tuesday night, the Penguins defeated the Flyers, 5-2, in their first home game with fans in about a year.
Kasperi Kapanen scored a pair of goals as the Penguins ended the Flyers’ three-game winning streak.
Crosby was placed on the league’s COVID protocol list Tuesday and might miss games against the visiting Flyers Thursday and Saturday. It is not known if Crosby has contracted the coronavirus.
“I think our execution was just a little off, all over the ice in all three zones,” said winger Joel Farabee, who scored both of the Flyers’ goals. “We have to regroup. We’re playing these guys twice more in a row and we have to come up with a better effort.”
The Flyers notched wins recently against the New York Rangers, who were missing Artemi Panarin (personal reasons), and Buffalo when it was without the injured Jack Eichel for one game. They took advantage of teams missing stars in those games but failed to capitalize Tuesday.
A crowd of 2,800 – the maximum allowed based on the 15% guidelines set by the state – watched the game at PPG Paints Arena.
“Our guys got some juice from the crowd,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “It just creates a different environment, and we haven’t had that environment in a long time.”
The Flyers got to within 3-2 when Farabee scored his 10th goal (tying for the team lead), this one on a rebound, with nine minutes left. Just 68 seconds later, defenseman Codi Ceci made it 4-2 by scoring from in close after being set up by former Flyer Mark Friedman.
Farabee’s line, with Sean Couturier and James van Riemsdyk, “brought their ‘A’ game,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “... The other three lines were looking for some jump, some chemistry.”
The Penguins added an empty-net goal (sort of), with Hart headed to the bench and then scrambling back to the net and making a futile dive to block the shot.
With the win, the Penguins tied the Flyers, who are fourth in the East Division, in points (25). The Flyers have two games in hand.
Kapanen and Farabee exchanged goals 67 seconds apart to create a 1-1 tie early in the second period.
Sean Couturier stole the puck in the neutral zone and worked a slick give-and-go that Farabee knocked into an open net to put the Flyers ahead, 1-0, with 17:28 left in the second. It was Farabee’s ninth goal -- one more than he scored in the entire 2019-20 season -- and Couturier’s assist gave him a career-high seven-game point streak.
But an errant Shayne Gostisbehere pass led to a Kapanen breakaway, and he put the puck between Hart’s legs with 16:21 to go in the period. It ended the Flyers’ shutout streak at 160 minutes, 12 seconds.
Kapanen, whose father, Sami, played for the Flyers from 2003 to 2008, wasn’t done. He finished off a pretty passing play to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead with 11:19 remaining in the second.
About 1 1/2 minutes later, Hart made a diving save to prevent an all-alone Kapanen, lurking in front of the net, from a hat trick.
The Penguins kept swarming, and Bryan Rust got behind Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov and scored on a rebound, pushing Pittsburgh’s lead to 3-1 with 9:15 left in the second. That gave the Pens three goals in a 7:06 span.
“Everyone came to play,” Rust said. “They knew the circumstances, and a lot of guys stepped up.”
The Flyers, who had a 42-27 shots advantage, went 0-for-5 on the power play and are in a 4-for-37 funk (10.8%) over their last nine games.
“I like the looks we were getting on the power play,” Vigneault said, “but we don’t have the results at the moment.”
With about nine minutes left in the opening period, a video of the Flyers left winger Oskar Lindblom, cancer survivor, was shown on the scoreboard and he received a standing ovation from Pittsburgh fans. Lindblom waved to the crowd. (Twenty-eight years ago to the day, Spectrum fans gave Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux a long standing ovation in his first game back after having 22 radiation treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma.)
Tuesday’s game was the start of the first three-game, regular-season series against the same opponent (and in the same building) in the Flyers’ history.
It also marked the return of right winger Travis Konecny, who missed the previous five games as he battled the coronavirus. Konecny had two shots and was minus-1 in 15:46.
“It wasn’t as bad as I expected, but I definitely feel a little out of it,” he said. “I mean, I think it’ll come back just with playing games.”