It was as predictable as an Andy Griffith Show rerun.
In other words, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Sidney Crosby would score his 500th career goal Tuesday against the team he always torments, the Philadelphia Flyers. You knew it. I knew it. Everybody knew it.
But what we didn’t know was that the last-place Flyers would get goals from some unlikely sources and would hold a late 4-2 lead over the Metropolitan-leading Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena.
No matter. The Flyers couldn’t close the deal and fell to the Penguins, 5-4, when Kris Letang, using Crosby as a decoy on a two-on-one, scored 31 seconds into overtime.
“This one stings, to be honest with you, because the game is there, and I just felt we gave them opportunities,” Flyers interim coach Mike Yeo said after the Penguins rallied on an emotional night when Crosby reached the 500-goal milestone. “Obviously they’re not a team you want to put on the power play twice in the third period.”
Trailing 4-2, Pittsburgh got goals from Jake Guentzel (power play) and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel (his first in 92 game) 18 seconds apart, knotting the game at 4-4 with 7:06 remaining.
About two minutes later, Penguins backup goalie Casey DeSmith, who had been shaky, made a great glove save on Morgan Frost’s ticketed left-circle drive while the Flyers were on a power play.
Defenseman Nick Seeler scored his first goal in three years — and first as a Flyer — on a wicked point drive to give Philly the lead, 3-2, with 9:17 left in the second.
Later in the period, Justin Braun, another defenseman, was credited with his fourth goal of the season when his shot deflected off a Penguins defenseman and past DeSmith. That gave the Flyers, a team with 11 players sidelined by injuries, a 4-2 lead.
Against a Penguins team that had been 20-3-3 since Dec. 4.
“I thought we were aggressive in most parts of our game and at most times, but obviously you have to do it every shift, every guy,” Yeo said.
Scott Laughton, who has raised eyebrows with his strong play as the Flyers’ second-line center, had a goal and an assist and was plus-3. He would have been the game’s No. 1 star if the Flyers didn’t collapse at the end.
“It helps when you’re getting more touches out there,” said Laughton, who praised the work of linemates James van Riemsdyk and Travis Konecny. “… But at the end of the day, if you don’t win games, it doesn’t really matter about the points.”
Crosby, meanwhile, continued his career-long domination against the Flyers as he collected his 500th career goal. It gave him 50 career goals against Philly, the most he has scored against any NHL team. By far.
“Kudos to him; he’s one of the best, if not the best player of his generation,” losing goalie Carter Hart said.
The Flyers (15-24-9) avoided another dubious franchise record — eight straight regulation losses on the road. They did it in 1972 and 1988. (During their current skid, they have lost nine consecutive road games, but they picked up a point in the first and last contests in that span.)
Crosby, 34, scored on the power play after a bad clearing attempt by the Flyers. He took a feed from Evgeni Malkin, and, from a bad angle near the goal line, scored from close range as he beat Hart to the goalie’s left side.
That put the Penguins (31-11-8) ahead, 2-1, with 3:36 left in the first. Crosby received a long standing ovation and he waved to the crowd after becoming the second active player and 46th in NHL history to reach the 500-goal mark. He also became 22nd player to do it with one team.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 16, 2022
The Flyers had taken a 1-0 lead when Claude Giroux, a walking trade rumor, took a perfect feed from Cam Atkinson and put the visitors ahead with 6:13 to go in the opening period. Giroux played a season-high 23:39.
“He’s one of the best players in the league,” Hart said about Giroux, who may have played his final game against the Penguins in a Flyers uniform. “It’s a privilege to play alongside him. I just wish we could give him more as a group. It’s a tough situation for him, and he’s playing great.”
After Giroux tallied, the Flyers, for the umpteenth time this season, allowed a goal a short time later.
Twenty-two seconds after Giroux scored, Dominik Simon collected the equalizer for the Penguins — just his second goal in the last 43 games.
By converting a Bryan Rust turnover into a goal early in the second period, Laughton tied the game at 2-all and extended his personal point streak to six games (four goals, four assists), equaling his career best.
The Flyers would outscore the Pens, 3-0, in the second period It was the first time they had three goals in a period since Dec. 14.
It appeared they would get their first win since the All-Star break. Instead, they suffered their third straight defeat, giving them 16 losses in their last 18 games.
On the game-winning goal, Letang poke-checked the puck away from Giroux in the Flyers’ offensive end, then streaked down ice before putting a shot between Hart’s legs. It was Letang’s second OT goal vs. the Flyers this season. … Van Riemsdyk had a pair of assists and was plus-3. … Rookie Isaac Ratcliffe committed the Flyers’ two third-period penalties — delay of game and tripping … The Flyers were 0 for 4 on the power play, while the Penguins were 2 for 4. … Crosby had two points and was minus-1. … Yeo, a former Penguins assistant, on Crosby: “He’s an incredible player and I’m definitely grateful to have had the chance to coach him.” … Ivan Provorov played a season-high 29:56. … Starting with Thursday’s game against Washington, the Flyers have an eight-game homestand, the longest in franchise history.