PITTSBURGH (AP) – Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins sent a message in their playoff opener.
The Penguins captain got his third career postseason hat trick, Evgeni Malkin added a highlight-reel goal and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions rolled over the Philadelphia Flyers 7-0 on Wednesday night to take quick control of their first-round series.
Crosby batted a shot out of midair and past Philadelphia goalie Brian Elliott in the second period for his first goal, tapped in one from the doorstep against Petr Mrazek 7:41 into the third and then deflected in another just over three minutes later as the Penguins dominated their cross-state rivals from the opening faceoff of Game 1.
Jake Guentzel had a goal and three assists for Pittsburgh. Bryan Rust and Carl Hagelin also scored. Matt Murray stopped 24 shots for his third straight playoff shutout.
Game 2 is Friday night in Pittsburgh.
Elliott stopped 14 of 19 shots and was pulled in favor of Mrazek after Crosby’s latest bit of wizardry pushed Pittsburgh’s lead to 5-0 just 9:01 into the second. Mrazek wasn’t much better, getting beaten by Crosby twice more as Philadelphia’s return to the playoffs after a one-year absence started with a thud.
The Flyers stressed the need to stay out of the penalty box and put together three disciplined, competitive periods if they wanted to put an abrupt halt to Pittsburgh’s run at history. It’s something Philadelphia failed to do during the regular season when the Penguins beat them in all four meetings, scoring five goals each time.
Game 1 didn’t go any better.
Elliott stopped Kris Letang’s slap shot with his blocker only to see the long rebound go right to Rust, who ripped it over Elliott’s right shoulder to give the Penguins the lead 2:38 into the game.
Philadelphia’s best chance at staying in it came minutes later, but Scott Laughton whiffed on his first attempt from the doorstep and Murray made a sprawling glove save on Laughton’s second try to preserve Pittsburgh’s lead.
Moments later, Hagelin expertly redirected Patric Hornqvist’s shot past Elliott 10:07 into the game. Malkin drew a hooking penalty to negate a Pittsburgh power play, and when he emerged from the penalty box, he whizzed past three Flyers in one sequence, darting by Jakub Voracek, slipping past Claude Giroux and then fending off Shayne Gostisbehere before flicking a backhand past Elliott to put the Penguins up 3-0 before the series was 15 minutes old.
All that before Crosby got involved.
The two-time MVP has a knack for scoring in unorthodox ways. He beat Montreal’s Carey Price with an intentional double-deflection and smacked a rebound out of air in overtime to top New Jersey within a span of eight days last month.
His first of the playoffs was just as impressive. Brian Dumoulin’s shot from the point fluttered after hitting a stick. Enter Crosby, who reached out and swatted it like a tennis player sending a two-handed backhand down the line. It zipped past a stunned Elliott. His last two goals weren’t quite as dramatic, though they did pull him into a tie with team owner and Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux for the franchise record for the most career hat tricks in the playoffs.
NOTES: Murray hasn’t allowed a goal since Game 4 of the 2017 Stanley Cup finals, a span of 206:26. … The Penguins, who had the league’s top-ranked power play during the regular season, went 1 for 4 with the man advantage. The Flyers were 0 for 4. … Pittsburgh C Derick Brassard, who missed time late in the regular season with a lower-body injury, had an assist in 13:44.
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