Mar 16, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; A shot by Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) hits off the post behind Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason (35) during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Flyers won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Penguins Come Up Inches Short As Flyers Complete Weekend Sweep

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby barely missed on two terrific late chances to tie the game, allowing the Philadelphia Flyers to escape with a 4-3 win Sunday and a sweep in the weekend home-and-home series.

The Penguins, who trailed 3-0 and 4-2 in the Consol Energy Center matinee, pulled goalie Jeff Zatkoff for an extra attacker in the final minute. Jussi Jokinen sprung Crosby through the neutral zone with a brilliant lead pass, but Flyers netminder Steve Mason got just enough of Crosby’s left-wing wrister to deflect it wide.

Crosby had an even closer call in the dying moments, as he tipped Olli Maatta‘s feed off the goal post with one second to play. Pittsburgh’s desperate late push was aided by a missed offside call, so Crosby’s poor luck helped the NHL avoided a great deal of postgame controversy.

While the Penguins (44-19-4, 92 points) nearly salvaged at least a point out of the affair, they probably didn’t deserve to. Much like Saturday’s 4-0 loss in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh was grossly outplayed in the early going.

The Flyers (35-25-7, 77 points) outshot the Pens 15-7 in the first period, when Wayne Simmonds‘ two power-play goals helped them build a three-score advantage. Philadelphia jumped into second place in the Metropolitan Division with the win, one point ahead of Columbus and the Rangers.

A rare goal from Brooks Orpik helped the Pens escape the first with some encouragement, and fellow defenseman Matt Niskanen added his career-high 10th early in the second to make it 3-2.

Penguins goalie Zatkoff, who came on in relief of the besieged Marc-Andre Fleury in the first, made a couple of dazzling saves in the middle frame to keep the Flyers within reach, but Matt Read restored the visitors’ two-goal margin at 12:11 with his second shorthanded strike of the weekend.

Without the injured James Neal (concussion) and Chris Kunitz (bruised ankle), Pittsburgh’s top-ranked power play looked anything but against the Flyers. The Pens went 0 for 9 against their cross-state rivals, allowing two shorthanded goals in the process.

Nonetheless, recent call-up Jayson Megna ensured an interesting third period when he deposited a gorgeous feed from Brian Gibbons at 16:19 of the second.

But the Penguins couldn’t get enough tangible production from Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, who were held scoreless despite numerous opportunities in the latter half of the game.

BOX SCORE

Now 4-4-1 since the Olympic break, the Penguins got some good news after the game when coach Dan Bylsma announced defenseman Kris Letang has been cleared to participate in practices. Last year’s Norris Trophy finalist suffered a stroke in late January, but his recovery has apparently gone quite well.

Pittsburgh hosts Dallas on Tuesday night.

Tags: Jeff Zatkoff Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby

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