PHILADELPHIA — Ryan Reaves can be quick to drop his gloves and start a timely fight to spark his team. With his gloves on, Reaves instead found another way to lift Pittsburgh with an opportune goal.
Reaves had a rare goal and an assist, and the Penguins scored four times in the second period to beat the scuffling Philadelphia Flyers 5-1 on Tuesday night.
In the waning minutes of Pittsburgh’s rout, Reaves joked that he was still looking for a scrap to set himself up for a Gordie Howe hat trick. He tallied only his second goal and third assist of the season — leaving out the fight he thought for sure he’d get to hit for hockey’s cycle.
“That would be a first time, for sure,” he said, laughing. “I asked (Jake) Voracek but he said no. I was very shocked. He’s pretty tough.”
The Penguins could afford to yuck it up in the locker room after fourth-liners Reaves and Tom Kuhnhackl helped put the game away in the second period. Phil Kessel and Conor Sheary also scored in the second as Pittsburgh beat its state rival once again. Both teams began the night outside the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
“You want to bury your rivals,” Reaves said.
Flyers goalie Brian Elliott, making his 14th straight start, allowed the four goals on just eight shots in the second period and was yanked for Michal Neuvirth in the third.
“You want to be at your best. I wasn’t and I don’t think anybody can say they were, either,” Elliott said.
The Penguins lost goalie Tristan Jarry to an injury in the second. Jarry, who had a 1.56 goals-against average and .943 save percentage over his last three games, appeared to take a stiff shot off his blocker hand and was checked by the team trainer. Matt Murray kept the Flyers scoreless the rest of the way.
The Penguins’ scoring burst came in just four minutes and they needed only 40 seconds during that span to score twice and take a 3-1 lead. Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby had an assist on Kessel’s 17th goal, but the Penguins also got goals from fourth-liners Reaves and Kuhnhackl to break the game open. Reaves snapped a 1-all tie with his second and Sheary scored 40 seconds later for his 11th. Kuhnhackl got his second of the season to make it 4-1.
Reaves and Kuhnhackl each scored against Philadelphia’s top defensive pair, Robert Hagg and Travis Konecny, and the Flyers were unable to build on a huge road win at Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay.
“First 30 minutes of this hockey game, there’s very little that I would change,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said.
It was the next 30 that gave Philadelphia fits.
Jamie Oleksiak made it 5-1 with a power-play goal in the third to seal just the Penguins’ fourth win over the last 11 games.
“We definitely needed a game like that where the offense is clicking and we’re playing good defense,” Reaves said. “It’s something to build off, but we need to string a couple of those together.”
Jordan Weal scored his fourth of the season for the Flyers.
Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux had his streak of seven straight games with an assist snapped.
“We know we’re a better team than that and we’ll have to answer next game,” Giroux said.
NOTES: Penguins defensemen Kris Letang and Justin Schultz returned from injuries. Letang had missed the last three games and Schultz had missed 11 because of undisclosed injuries. … Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson received a huge ovation when he was introduced in the first period. … The Flyers’ bench door appeared to break in the third. … Oleksiak scored his first goal for Pittsburgh since he was acquired last month from Dallas. … Crosby has 40 points (16 goals, 24 assists) in 29 career games at Philadelphia. … Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin and forward Carter Rowney also were injured.
Penguins: Host the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.
Flyers: Also play Thursday in the second of a four-game homestand against the New York Islanders.
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