The Pittsburgh Penguins advanced to the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs with an 8-5 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series Sunday at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Jake Guentzel was credited with four goals, including three in the third period. His offensive explosion couldn't have come at a better time for Pittsburgh, which was without Evgeni Malkin.
According to the Penguins' official Twitter account, entering Sunday only two other players in franchise history had scored four goals in one playoff game: Mario Lemieux and Kevin Stevens. Guentzel joined that group.
Sportsnet's Dimitri Filipovic contrasted Guentzel's unremarkable regular-season scoring record to his impressive postseason numbers:
Philadelphia owes the defeat largely to its meltdown in the final six-and-a-half minutes of the second period. Sean Couturier (who finished with three goals and two assists) and Scott Laughton scored to give the Flyers a 4-2 lead 12:14 into the period, with Matt Murray looking shaky between the pipes for Pittsburgh.
Then, a pair of Radko Gudas giveaways led to two goals for the Penguins, who tied the game at four.
First, a misplaced pass from Gudas found Brian Dumoulin, who quickly got Pittsburgh on the counterattack. Guentzel, who entered Sunday with a team-high six assists, left Patric Hornqvist with an easy finish to register the Penguins' third goal of the game at the 13:35 mark of the second period.
Gudas was at fault again for Pittsburgh's fourth goal. He failed to clear the puck, which allowed the Penguins to gain the advantage. Guentzel was credited with the tally, but it appeared Olli Maatta's wrist shot eluded Michal Neuvirth without any help from Guentzel.
Many on social media were quick to heap on the misery for Gudas after the Penguins leveled things up with 54 seconds left in the second period:
The Penguins' fourth goal largely quieted Wells Fargo Center with one period to go. Pittsburgh wasted little time capitalizing on the momentum swing, scoring the go-ahead goal 30 seconds into the final frame.
Phil Kessel picked the pocket of Ivan Provorov and baited Neuvirth long enough to force the goaltender to make a move. Kessel slid a pass across to Guentzel, who basically had a tap-in to put the Penguins ahead 5-4. The NHL shared a replay:
Guentzel added two more goals in the space of 10 seconds in the third to put the game out of reach for the Flyers.
There was some controversy prior to Guentzel's third goal. The referees missed a trip on Kris Letang when he brought down Couturier, and Pittsburgh scored moments later to take a two-goal advantage.
That sequence was likely front and center in the minds of some Flyers fans toward the end of the game after Bryan Rust scored an empty-net goal with a little over 30 seconds remaining. Some fans threw objects—including beer cans—onto the ice, which led to a brief delay.
The Flyers have now gone six years without winning a postseason series. Giving up eight goals at home in a series-deciding game will add to the frustration of what's a third straight first-round exit.
The Penguins now await the winner of the first-round series between the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets. The Capitals can clinch a series victory Monday night in Game 6, with Game 7 scheduled for Wednesday if necessary.
The Penguins are likely hoping the Blue Jackets can make a comeback against the Capitals.
Pittsburgh won all four of its head-to-head matchups with Columbus and knocked out the Blue Jackets in five games in the first round a year ago. Washington, meanwhile, went 2-2 against the Penguins and pushed them to seven games in the second round in 2017.