Sunday night's nationally televised game was not the usual high-flying, high-scoring affair that occurs between the division rivals, but it was an incredible hard-fought, defensive battle that was as riveting as ever.
The Flyers had only played once in the past eight days, while the Penguins roared in with an 11-game win streak to lead the conference. The Flyers are in the midst of a disappointing year and need a couple more wins to get even to .500, but their win over Pittsburgh was a great place to start.
Philadelphia has a lot of talent, but they just have not put it together. Their defense has been weak, Ilya Bryzgalov has been inconsistent and they haven't put forth the effort needed to win on a consistent basis.
At this point in the season, they could be considered desperate, but they certainly rose to the occasion like they needed to on Sunday night. It was not pretty by any means, but they outplayed Pittsburgh for a lot of the game and showed some promise.
Getting pumped for a game against their cross-state rivals is not difficult for the Flyers, but they needed more than that to get hyped; they needed to deliver. An overtime loss is not optimal, but they'll take the point and momentum that comes with it.
Captain Claude Giroux stepped up and delivered with a quick snap shot to put the Flyers ahead 1-0 in the second period after a scoreless first. Bryzgalov was solid throughout the entire game, particularly in the first period, where he made a few brilliant stops to keep Pittsburgh off the board.
The Flyers also took advantage of Evgeni Malkin's absence, playing strong up the middle and pressing a little extra without the threat of Malkin taking the puck end-to-end. Even without his defensive assignment on the ice, Sean Couturier still elevated his game as he has shown to do against Pittsburgh and played very well.
The Flyers matched the Penguins hit for hit and really stiffened up defensively. They were also disciplined, until the second half of the third period, where Crosby took advantage and tied the game up.
But even after giving up that 5-on-3 goal, the Flyers beared down and killed the remainder of the penalty, then pushed back and put some pressure on Pittsburgh during the final minutes of regulation.
There was that playoff atmosphere in the air, and Philadelphia seemed every bit up to the challenge as the Flyers battled into overtime. They even had a couple great scoring chances before Tyler Kennedy ripped a perfect shot top-shelf to win it for Pittsburgh.
With five straight games now at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers could take the momentum from this solid showing into their homestand and move up in the standings. If they can maintain both their energy and focus from Sunday night's effort, maybe they'll make a playoff push after all.