PITTSBURGH (AP) — Bryan Rust redirected a pass from Sidney Crosby 2:25 into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins finished off a season sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers with a 5-4 victory on Sunday.
The Flyers tied it on Sean Couturier’s goal with 43 seconds left in regulation but the Penguins controlled the extra period. Rust ended it when he got his stick down in time to get a piece of Crosby’s pass from the top of the left circle and knock it by Petr Mrazek to give the Penguins their first sweep of Philadelphia since the 2006-07 season.
Crosby’s spectacular goal 17 seconds into the third period gave Pittsburgh a 4-3 advantage. Crosby held off Couturier high in the zone, skated to the left dot and ripped a wrist shot over Philadelphia defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and Mrazek’s glove. Couturier exacted a bit of revenge when he knotted it late to assure the Flyers of at least a point.
Still, the Penguins pulled within three points of first-place Washington in the Metropolitan Division and moved two points clear of Philadelphia, which pulled into a third-place tie with Columbus.
Evgeni Malkin scored his 42nd goal for Pittsburgh, pulling within two of the NHL lead held by Washington’s Alex Ovechkin. Patric Hornqvist and Derick Brassard also scored for Pittsburgh. Justin Schultz had three assists for the Penguins. Matt Murray finished with 41 saves as Pittsburgh improved to 16-1-1 in its past 18 home games.
Rookie Travis Sanheim picked up his second career goal for the Flyers. Brandon Manning and Jordan Weal also scored. Starting goaltender Alex Lyon was pulled early in the second period after giving up three goals on 11 shots. Mrazek made 19 saves but couldn’t get a glove on Rust’s winner.
The erratic Flyers fell to 4-6-3 in March after going 10-1-2 in February and have struggled keeping their cross-state rivals in check this season. Pittsburgh scored five goals in all four season meetings, outscoring Philadelphia 20-12.
Considering how crowded the division standings are with two weeks to go in the regular season, a first-round playoff meeting isn’t out of the question.
If it happens, it could match the wide-open postseason clash in which the clubs scored 56 goals in six games as Philadelphia pulled off an upset in 2012.
Pittsburgh’s play in the defensive end isn’t quite the hot mess it was six years ago but the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions have struggled with consistency of late and had serious issues — particularly backchecking by the forwards — in keeping the puck out of their end at times.
The teams took turns dominating during the first two periods. The Penguins needed all of 22:37 to chase Lyon, whose hot stretch came to a crashing half when Hornqvist and Malkin scored 2 minutes apart early in the second period to put Pittsburgh up 3-2.
The Flyers tied it at 3 when Weal pounded home a rebound on the power play with 2:50 left in the second.
It set the stage for Crosby again. Five days removed from his remarkable double-tap goal against Montreal, Crosby’s 26th of the season gave Pittsburgh a lead that looked as if it would hold up until Couturier stood on the doorstep and jammed home a rebound.
NOTES: The Flyers went 1 for 3 on the power play. Pittsburgh went 1 for 2. … The Penguins scratched D Matt Hunwick and Fs Carter Rowney and Zach Aston-Reese. … D Robert Hagg and Fs Taylor Leier and Dale Weise were healthy scratches for Philadelphia.
Flyers: Continue three-game road trip in Dallas on Tuesday. Philadelphia edged the Stars 2-1 on Dec. 16.
Penguins: Visit Detroit on Tuesday. The teams have split their first two meetings, each winning on home ice.
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