Philadelphia Flyers center Jordan Weal (40) (center) celebrates his goal the ties the game in the first period against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on March 26, 2017. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo
PITTSBURGH -- By his own admission, Brandon Manning isn't a player who will put up a ton of points.
However, the defenseman's physical attributes proved to be a vital part of the Philadelphia Flyers' 6-2 rout of the rival Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night at PPG Paints Arena.
With his team trailing 1-0, Manning engaged Penguins defenseman Cameron Gaunce in a fight at 7:58 of the first period and was credited with changing the game's momentum.
"No question," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "Again, Brandon Manning showing his importance to our hockey team, and that fight, the importance to our team tonight, it's unquestionable."
The victory kept Philadelphia's slim playoff hopes alive as the Flyers (35-32-8, 78 points) moved ahead of the Florida Panthers (77 points) in the Eastern Conference standings and within six points of the Boston Bruins for the final Eastern Conference wild card.
"Obviously, we know where we are in the standings," Philadelphia right winger Jakub Voracek said. "It's not going to be easy to make the playoffs. We all know that. We have to look for the results on the other teams. We just try to play a little relaxed, a little loose."
Voracek, Valtteri Filppula, Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas, Jordan Weal and Dale Weise scored for the Flyers. Matt Cullen and Patric Hornqvist had goals for the Penguins.
Flyers goaltender Steve Mason made 25 saves, and Matt Murray stopped 27 in the Penguins' net.
The Penguins (46-18-11) opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 4:31 of the first period. From the right circle, Cullen jabbed a loose puck on net. Mason made a save but allowed a rebound to trickle behind him. Following up on the play, Cullen tapped the loose puck into the open net.
After the fight, the Flyers tied the score at 1 with 54 seconds remaining in the first period when Weal raced up the left wing and lifted a wrister past Murray's glove hand on the far side.
Philadelphia took its first lead at 7:11 of the second period. Digging a puck out of a frantic scramble in the slot, Filppula swept a forehand shot under a scrambling Murray. The Penguins issued a coach's challenge contending Filppula had interfered with Murray, but the score was not overturned.
The Flyers made it 3-1 1:11 into the third. Settling a puck in the left circle, Flyers center Travis Konecny fed a pass to Weise above the crease. After Weise one-touched it on net, Murray made the initial save but allowed a rebound. Fending off Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz, Weise swept the loose puck into the vacant cage.
Voracek added an insurance goal at 8:41 of the third period. After center Claude Giroux fired a wrister from the right circle, Murray kicked a rebound to the left circle, where Voracek lifted it over the blocker on the near side.
The Penguins pulled within two at 13:56. Taking a stretch pass from defenseman David Warsofsky, Hornqvist hustled past Flyers right winger Wayne Simmonds and lifted a wrister from the right circle past Mason's glove hand on the far side.
An empty-net goal by Gudas at 17:31 secured the victory. Gostisbehere tacked on a goal with a one-timer at 18:58.
In a battle with the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets for first place in the Metropolitan Division as well as the top overall record in the NHL, Pittsburgh lost its third consecutive game, although the previous two were in shootouts.
"That's the way it's going, so we've got to find ways to win games," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "We can't control who's in and out, but we've got to be able to make sure that our effort is there and we didn't give ourselves much of a chance I don't think tonight."
The Penguins, already playing without several regulars, including defenseman Kris Letang and center Evgeni Malkin, saw another key player leave the lineup in left winger Conor Sheary.
Sheary did not play a shift after 10:46 of the first period. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Sheary was day to day with an undisclosed injury. He is fifth on the team with 50 points (21 goals, 29 assists) in 55 games.
"We're trying hard to win games with the people that we have available to suit up on a given game," Sullivan said. "The stakes are high, that's obvious at this time of year.
"There's a lot to play for. We've solidified a playoff position, but we'd like to be in the best possible position. That's important."
-- On Sunday, Penguins C Sidney Crosby responded to criticism from Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk for the first time since Melnyk described Crosby as a "whiner beyond belief" in a radio interview with TSN 1200 Friday. Crosby said, "I'm just going to leave it. He likes to hear himself talk, so let's leave it." Melnyk was upset over an unpenalized slash by Crosby that injured a finger on the left hand of Senators D Marc Methot on Thursday.
-- Penguins D David Warsofsky played his first game since Jan. 16. He was recalled from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday.
-- Penguins LW Scott Wilson returned to the lineup after being sidelined one game due to an undisclosed injury.
-- The Penguins scratched RW Josh Archibald, C Jake Guentzel, LW Carl Hagelin, D Ron Hainsey, C Evgeni Malkin, D Chad Ruhwedel and LW Tom Sestito.
-- Flyers C Jordan Weal registered his second two-point game of the season. The previous came on the road against the Buffalo Sabres on March 7.
-- Flyers D Michael Del Zotto returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for two games.
-- The Flyers scratched C Nick Cousins, LW Roman Lyubimov and D Nick Schultz.