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Healthier Penguins crush Flyers; Lafferty scratched

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins endured a brutal stretch in the opening days of the season in which high-profile players headed to injured reserve with alarming regularity.

Yet rather than panic, head coach Mike Sullivan used it as an opportunity to make sure the good habits he believes his team will need to win in one of the NHL’s most competitive divisions become ingrained. Take fewer risks on defense. Make the simple pass on offense.

Do both well enough for long enough and Sullivan knows the scoring will take care of itself, kind of the way it did during a 7-1 demolition of the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.

The Penguins poured in four goals during a 6:05 span of the first period — matching their first-period total on the season coming in — and Pittsburgh rarely let up in its biggest regular-season blowout over their cross-state rivals in 11 years.

Pittsburgh scratched Chad Ruhwedel and Juuso Riikola and Hollidaysburg native Sam Lafferty prior to the game.

“We’re playing the game the right way, the way we want to play it and when we all buy in the way the guys are buying in right now, I think we’re a very good hockey team,” Sullivan said. “Tonight we were able to finish on some of the chances we got early in the first period. I give our players credit. They had the right mindset from the drop of the puck.”

Sidney Crosby, wearing a facemask as extra protection after getting hit in the head by a shot over the weekend, had a goal and two assists to boost his career point total against the Flyers to 102. Dominik Simon and Dominik Kahun also had a goal and two assists apiece for Pittsburgh, which finished a busy October 8-5-0, not bad considering forwards Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust, Nick Bjugstad and Alex Galchenyuk were among the group that watched the majority of the action from the press box while sidelined with injuries.

Though Malkin remains out indefinitely with a lower-body injury, the others have made their way back, giving an already confident group a noticeable boost.

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