Brian Dumoulin #8 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his second period goal against the Philadelphia Flyers with Chad Ruhwedel #2, Jake Guentzel #59, and Sidney Crosby #87 in Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center on April 15, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Picking the three stars in Sunday’s Pittsburgh Penguins-Philadelphia Flyers matinee was a piece of cake.
They weren’t what was listed on the bottom of the NHL’s game sheet.
The first two were right. Sidney Crosby deserved to be No. 1 for his goal and three assists in the Penguins 5-1 victory, and Matt Murray was properly named the second star for his 26-save performance which again included a very important one early in the game.
But instead of going with Evgeni Malkin for scoring the third goal and assisting on the meaningless fifth, the third star should have been Pittsburgh defenceman Brian Dumoulin.
While Patric Hornqvist received all the credit and the lone helper on Crosby’s ice-breaking wraparound, just past the midway mark of the opening period, it wouldn’t have happened had Dumoulin not separated Michael Raffl from the puck along the right wing boards.
Dumoulin then gave the Penguins an untouchable three-goal lead in the second period with one five seconds after Malkin had made it 3-1. That tied a NHL record for fastest two goals in a playoff game, but while both names will go into the book, the accomplishment is nothing on Malkin’s goal alone. That’s just a goal. Dumoulin made it all-time noteworthy.
I also thought the Penguins defence didn’t get enough credit for the job it did keeping the Flyers under 30 shots in front of a typically whipped up Philadelphia playoff crowd.
Dumoulin was sent over the boards 33 times to lead all players on either team in shifts.
The Penguins are often led by their stars, but in taking a 2-1 series lead against the Flyers, a lesser light deserved more recognition for his contributions.
STARTS AND STOPS: Crosby has seven points in the first three games and now just needs one more to tie Mario Lemieux as the Penguins all-time leading playoff point scorer. In 151 post-season games, the Kid has 171 points. Is that any good? … Maybe put it down to his intense focus at this time of the year as to why Crosby stumbled through a post-game question from Hockey Night in Canada’s Christine Simpson about having two full days off before Game 4. “We’ll take full advantage of that and get ready for the game here on, you know, whenever it is,” he said, laughing. “I don’t even know what day it is right now. I just … I think it’s Wednesday, so I’ll be ready for Wednesday.” … Of all the national anthem singers in the NHL, I’ll take Lauren Hart every time … From watching on TV, the series was played in a library until it moved to Wells Fargo Center.
BETWEEN PERIODS: “Bad Brian” Elliott was back in the Flyers net, giving up four goals on the first 12 shots. Doesn’t matter how they’re scored, sometimes your goalie has to make a save. Especially when your fans are fired up for your first playoff home game (since 2016) of a tied series … For those scoring at home, Elliott gave up five goals on 19 shots before being pulled in a Game 1 shellacking and stopped 34 of 35 shots in a Game 2 victory. On Sunday the Penguins had just 26 shots, including only four in the first period … By the time the game was 75 seconds old, Elliott had made a nice blocker stop off Justin Schultz and Murray had one-upped him by robbing Nolan Patrick with a great glove save after the rookie had sped his way in alone … Stunning stats — the Penguins are 16-6-2 in its last 24 games at Wells Fargo Center and have outscored the Flyers 15-4 in the three played there this season. Wonder if the Flyers would like to have Game 4 moved to Pittsburgh … When you saw Murray’s record in playoff games after a Pittsburgh loss was 8-1, with a 1.58 goals against average and a .936 save percentage, you probably thought it can’t get much better than that. Until it did.
CONNECTING THE DOTS: Sometimes the media tries too hard for a story angle. Like, there was all sorts of talk about the Penguins power play operating at 12.5% while converting only one of eight chances through the first two games. Sure enough, Pittsburgh scored three times on seven chances with the man advantage Sunday … The real storyline coming into the series had to do with special teams, all right. The Penguins power play, at a 26.1% efficiency, was best in the league during the regular season. The Flyers penalty killing was 29th … You may have heard that the Malkin-Dumoulin goals five ticks apart tied a record set by Norm Ullman, when he was a Detroit Red Wing in 1965. But not mentioned was the record for fastest two goals in regular season play. It’s held by Jim Dowd and Richard Park, who scored a pair three seconds apart for the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 1, 2004. Park’s was an empty netter …. Heard it mentioned more than once that it was “the first ever playoff goal” for Flyers defenceman Travis Sanheim. That might be more noteworthy if it wasn’t just his third ever playoff game. Or if the 22-year-old didn’t have only two goals in 49 career regular season games.
BUTT ENDS: Another in the long list of trades the Edmonton Oilers would now like back was completed on Feb. 27, 2016, when they sent Justin Schultz to Pittsburgh for a third round pick. Schultz went on to earn some Norris votes last season and on Sunday was quarterbacking a first unit power play (in part, perhaps, because Kris Letang is not 100%) that includes Crosby, Malkin, Hornqvist and Phil Kessel. Letang might not get his job back … To have any hope the Flyers need more from Jakub Voracek, their very talented winger who has just one assist in three games. Through the first two periods on Sunday he had no shots, but did take four that were blocked … Cheaters are guys like Kessel, Voracek, Murray and Radko Gudas. Their playoff beards clearly started a long time ago.