Penguins blank Flyers, push Philly to the brink

Associated Press
Flyers goalie Brian Elliott looks back after a shot by Phil Kessel slipped through his pads in the first period of Wednesday’s Game 4. Elliott was pulled in the second period for Michal Neuvirth. - Tom Mihalek | AP photo

PHILADELPHIA — Sidney Crosby passed Mario Lemieux in Pittsburgh’s record book and pushed the Philadelphia Flyers to the brink of elimination.

Flyers fans booed the goal — and the ones that stuck around for the end belted a familiar refrain: “Fire Hakstol! Fire Hakstol!”

Crosby scored his fifth goal of the series and became the Penguins’ career postseason points leader in a 5-0 win over the Flyers on Wednesday night.

The Penguins lead the first-round playoff series 3-1 as its shifts to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Friday. Crosby and the Penguins followed a 7-0 Game 1 win and a 5-1 Game 3 victory with another dominant outing.

Matt Murray stopped 26 shots for his second shutout of the series and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins are a win away from playing in the second round for the 11th time in the last 12 seasons.

Crosby scored in the second period for a 4-0 lead and topped the team owner and Hall of Famer in Lemieux for most playoff points with 173.

“A lot of his records aren’t going to be touched,” Crosby said. “The fact I can be close to him and around that one, I guess I’ve been fortunate to play in a number of playoff games helps a lot.”

The Flyers were already on their second goalie by the time Crosby scored. The Penguins chased Brian Elliott early in the period after the maligned goalie allowed his 14th goal of the series. Michal Neuvirth relived Elliott and it didn’t matter. Neuvirth lost track of the puck behind the net and had his head turned to the right when Crosby found it and snapped it under the goalie’s left skate.

“I was in a good spot. The puck ended up right on my stick,” Crosby said.

The Flyers were confused. The Penguins were composed.

And it so it goes in Philly, the Flyers are a loss away from another empty season without the Stanley Cup.

“Somehow, we need to get our confidence back and go from there,” team captain Claude Giroux said.

Disgruntled Flyers fans chanted from the balcony to the concourse for the Flyers to fire third-year coach Dave Hakstol.

Both teams played without key cogs in their lineup: Sean Couturier (who had career highs with 31 goals and 76 points) was injured Tuesday at practice in a vicious collision with teammate Radko Gudas; the Pens played without top-line forward Patric Hornqvist because of an undisclosed injury.

Giroux, who scored 102 points during the season, has not scored a posteason goal since 2014.

“One game away for the season to be over,” Giroux said. “You can expect this team to have some fight the next game.”

The Flyers pulled out all their good-luck charms.

The national champion Villanova Wildcats were in the house and star guard Phil Booth screamed “Are you ready for some hockey?”

Flyers fans heard the usual stirring rendition of “God Bless America,” live by Lauren Hart and on video by the late Kate Smith. The song has been a rallying anthem for the Flyers since Smith began singing it in the mid 1970s. Hart started the song, then looked up to the big screen and passed it off to Smith. They finished in a split-screen duet.

Once the pageantry settled down, the Penguins poured it on.

Crosby’s on-point pass on the power play led to Evgeni Malkin’s third goal of the playoff just 4:33 into the game. Phil Kessel scored his first of the postseason midway through the period. Kris Letang made it 3-0 in the second and that was all for Elliott.

Riley Sheahan made it 5-0 late in the third. Neuvirth stopped 11 of 13 shots in relief.

“We won in their building on the second game so that’s the attitude we’re going to take,” Neuvirth said.

Murray was solid again, and stoned Travis Konency on a breakaway out of the penalty box in the second that had the second-year center slam his stick on the ice in anger.

“They had their chances, at times,” Murray said. “But we got the job done.”

Lightning 3, Devils 1

NEWARK, N.J. — A feisty Nikita Kucherov scored two goals, set up another and knocked New Jersey’s top defenseman out of the game with a big hit, and Tampa Bay moved within a game of making the Devils’ first trip to the playoffs in six years a short one.

J.T. Miller also scored and had two assists, and Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped three breakaways in making 27 saves as the Lightning bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to tale a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.

Tampa Bay can wrap up the best-of-seven series in Game 5 at home on Saturday.

Kyle Palmieri scored on a 5-on-3 advantage for the Devils, who are back in the playoffs for the first time since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2012. It was the only time they beat Vasilevskiy, whose 44 wins in the regular season shared the league lead with Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck. Cory Schneider made 34 saves for New Jersey in starting his second straight game.

Flyers goalie Brian Elliott looks back after a shot by Phil Kessel slipped through his pads in the first period of Wednesday’s Game 4. Elliott was pulled in the second period for Michal Neuvirth.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_AP18108862822592.jpgFlyers goalie Brian Elliott looks back after a shot by Phil Kessel slipped through his pads in the first period of Wednesday’s Game 4. Elliott was pulled in the second period for Michal Neuvirth. Tom Mihalek | AP photo

Associated Press