By Michael Bennett
The fantasy that the Flyers are a threat to win the Stanley Cup met reality last night at the Wells.
The Pittsburgh Penguins moved into first place in the Metropolitan Division with a 5-2 victory against the Flyers.
Sidney Crosby had three assists to reach 1,100 NHL points for Pittsburgh (39-25-4), which won its third straight game and moved one point ahead of the Washington Capitals. Conor Sheary scored two goals, and Evgeni Malkin and Jamie Oleksiakeach had a goal and an assist. Phil Kessel scored, and Tristan Jarry made 26 saves.
Jakub Voracek and Travis Konecny scored for Philly (34-22-11), which lost its fourth straight game (0-3-1). Petr Mrazekmade 23 saves.
The Flyers are third in the division, two points behind the Capitals and three points behind the Penguins.
Sheary’s goals were his first in 16 games and were part of a three-goal burst in the second period that gave the Penguins a 4-2 lead.
After Oleksiak scored on a shot from the point at 9:24 to make it 2-2, Sheary made it 3-2, scoring on the rebound of a Crosby shot off a 2-on-1 rush at 14:25.
He extended the lead to 4-2 at 19:20 when banged in the rebound of a Jake Guentzel shot.
Both goals came close to the net, a spot Sheary knows he needs to get to in order to be successful.
“If you look at all the goals throughout my career you’re not going to find many where I’m dangling a defenseman or even beating a goalie with a nice shot,” Sheary said. “A lot of times I’ll find those loose pucks in front of the net. I had to get back to that and I found a couple tonight.
“It’s a hard area to go to but I think I was getting away from that a little bit and I think I got back to that a little bit tonight.”
Sheary started the game on the fourth line but finished on the top line alongside Crosby and Guentzel.
“[Sheary] works so hard, he goes to tough areas,” Crosby said. “Doesn’t always come to you there but he continues to go there. Great example on the two goals he had. He works hard and it was great to see him get rewarded tonight.”
After Kessel gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal with 1:25 remaining in the first period, the Flyers took a 2-1 lead on goals by Voracek (2:07) and Konecny (5:59) of the second period.
But the Flyers weren’t able to maintain the momentum.
“I think they just took advantage of the opportunities they got,” Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “Odd-man rush and they got pucks to the net. Our coverage was a little bit soft on a few occasions in the second and they took advantage and they capitalized.”
The Flyers had opportunities to come back but went 0-for-5 on the power play, including one in the third period when Malkin was called for tripping at 11:03. They’re 1-for-19 on the power play the past six games.
“Power play was [poor] tonight and it’s frustrating,” Flyers forwardClaude Giroux said. “We did a good job of drawing those penalties and gaining momentum and it wasn’t good.”
Malkin scored into an empty net with 1:41 left in the third for a 5-2 lead.