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Penguins extend Flyers' season-opening misery
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Evgeni Malkin picked up a goal and one assist as the Pittsburgh Penguins sent the Philadelphia Flyers to a franchise- worst start to a season by claiming a 4-1 decision on Thursday.
Even playing without top defenseman Kris Letang (knee) and key forward James Neal (lower-body), four different players lit the lamp, including Sidney Crosby, who increased his season-commencing point streak to seven games.
Chris Kunitz and Jussi Jokinen also tallied for the Penguins, the Metropolitan Division leaders who improved to 6-1-0 on the year.
"The start of the season is always an adjustment. You really just focus on your work ethic and making sure you're committed to doing what you need to do every night," Crosby said. "Sometimes, it doesn't work out that way, especially early on, but we found a way to win games for different reasons. It's nice to get rewarded early on, and to build some confidence and momentum."
Pascal Dupuis added a pair of assists to back a 24-save effort from Marc-Andre Fleury.
Steve Mason continued his solid play, making 31 stops for the Flyers, who fell to 1-7-0 -- one point worse than a 1-6-1 start to the 2006-07 season.
Wayne Simmonds recorded the lone goal for Philadelphia, whose anemic offense has produced 11 goals so far.
"We're not even close. I think we were all right in the first. Second period was awful. We never really recovered from that. We were brutal," Simmonds related. "We weren't executing work, getting pucks deep, weren't turning over pucks in neutral zone. They are a good transition team. We couldn't break the puck out of our own zone and they took advantage of that."
Fleury robbed Simmonds in close during the Flyers' first advantage in the third period, and though the ice was tilted in the Philadelphia end for the majority of the final stanza, it remained only a one-goal edge for the visitors.
The Pens assumed a 3-1 margin with 2:32 left in regulation. An attempted clear from Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn from behind his net redirected off the side of the cage right to Dupuis in the slot, and he flipped the puck in front for an easy tap-in from Crosby.
Mason was summoned to the bench for an extra skater shortly after and Malkin connected into the empty net with 12.3 ticks left.
"Our D did a great job of getting pucks out. Forwards were coming back hard, but I thought we sat back a little bit more than we wanted to," Crosby admitted. "It's good that we weren't taking chances offensively, but we could have probably played there a little bit more to give ourselves a better chance of not having to play in our end."
In a scoreless opening period, the Penguins failed to click on two-plus power- play chances and the Flyers came up short on their opportunity.
The hosts were held without a shot for 14 minutes by the time the visitors claimed the game's first goal. Malkin grabbed an attempted clear in the neutral zone, moved over the Philadelphia blue line and fed ahead to Jokinen for a high wrister from the right circle just before the midway point of regulation.
Kunitz made it 2-0 with 12:13 played in the second, when he swooped in on the right side and slammed home a Dupuis rebound which deflected off the shin pad of Coburn and stopped just outside Mason's crease.
Fleury was whistled for interference inside of a minute on the clock, and Simmonds halved the Flyers' deficit by hitting the net on a deflection of a Claude Giroux chance with two seconds to play. It snapped the club's 0-for-18 slide up a man.
"'Chief' (head coach Craig Berube) told us exactly the truth. Told us that without Mason and Simmonds we would not be in that game and I think that was a spark for us," said Flyers forward Max Talbot. "That goal at the end of the second was a big goal from a power play. We came out stronger in the third but the result didn't come true."
Pittsburgh has won three in a row and five of the last seven games in Philadelphia ... Mason fell to 2-2-1 against the Penguins, with Thursday his first start against the Steel City club since making 32 saves in a 4-1 win with Columbus on Feb. 8, 2011 ... Crosby upped his point total in Philly to 35 points (14G, 21A) in 22 career regular-season games ... Malkin has 30 points (13G, 17A) over 22 games in eastern Pennsylvania ... Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen left the game in the second period and did not return with a lower- body injury.
10/18 00:49:41 ET