Three things we learned from Penguins-Flyers Game 6
PHILADELPHIA — Jake Guentzel cemented his reputation as a big-game performer with a four-goal effort in the Penguins’ series-clinching 8-5 victory Sunday afternoon.
It’s a reputation years in the making.
Take Guentzel’s college career, for example.
In the first 16 years Nebraska-Omaha had a Division I program, the school made the NCAA tournament just twice and bowed out in the first round both times. When Guentzel was a sophomore, UNO made the Frozen Four.
When Guentzel got his first taste of pro hockey after his college career concluded, he posted 14 points in 10 playoff games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2016.
All that prompted former Penguins assistant general manager Jason Botterill to give the following assessment of Guentzel before he stepped foot in NHL ice: “He steps up in big games,” Botterill said. “You talk about the skill level to get to the National Hockey League, but you also want that drive to win and the ability to succeed in pressure situations. He’s certainly done that.”
Botterill only knew the half of it.
“I just think he’s one of those guys that has it,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He has the ability to play his best when the stakes are the highest.”
Here are three things we learned in Game 6.
1 MAKING HIMSELF AT HOME
It got a little lost in the shuffle when the game turned into an 8-5 fireworks display, but Sidney Crosby made another big play in a building full of fans that hate him most.
With their backs to the wall and with their fans roaring, the Flyers got off to a brilliant start. They took a 7-1 edge in shots and a 1-0 lead on Sean Couturier’s first goal.
Minutes later, Crosby cashed in the rebound of a Kris Letang shot in a momentum-stealing moment.
Including the regular season, Crosby had 13 points in five games in Philadelphia this season.
2 ANOTHER MAATTA ENTIRELY
On the topic of overshadowed performances, Olli Maatta quietly had a big night in Game 6.
When he was on the ice, the Penguins outscored the Flyers 4-0 and held a 14-7 advantage in shots.
His shot from the left point late in the second period hit the post behind goalie Michal Neuvirth, making Guentzel’s first goal possible.
Earlier in the period, he had a keep-in at the left point that helped make Patric Hornqvist’s goal happen.
3 SECOND TRY
The Penguins continued their trend of losing in their first chance at eliminating an opponent but winning the second.
Under Sullivan, they’re 3-6 in chance No. 1 and 5-1 in chance No. 2.
Perhaps they need to fail before they succeed.
“I sure hope not,” Sullivan said. “We’ve been through a number of these elimination games over the last couple of years, so it’s not a surprise to any of us.
“I know a lot of you guys wrote about how we took Game 5 for granted and I will tell you we didn’t take it for granted, not one single individual. We knew it was going to be hard. ... It’s not that we didn’t play well. There was a lot of Game 5 that we liked. We just didn’t get it done.
“My hope moving forward is we can learn from those experiences and hopefully we have better success.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.