Jordan Staal scored twice and Sidney Crosby enjoyed a three-point night as the Pittsburgh Penguins romped to a 6-1 result over state rival Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Crosby opened the scoring early in the first and later set up goals for Staal and Bill Guerin. Evgeni Malkin had two points in the third with the game already in hand, scoring his team's second short-handed goal of the game as well as setting up Ruslan Fedotenko.
"It's real easy to get up for these games," Staal said. "It's an exciting match every time we play. It's a battle and I think it's something everyone enjoys."
Pittsburgh (23-10-1) moved into second in the Eastern Conference.
Crosby now has 21 goals and 20 assists, putting him just three behind Joe Thornton for the NHL scoring lead.
The clubs will meet again in Philadelphia on Thursday, when Crosby can add to his impressive totals of 21 goals and 28 assists in 28 games against the Flyers.
Daniel Carcillo scored the lone goal for Philadelphia (15-16-1).
The Flyers had scored a rare recent win on Monday, setting aside Boston. The Flyers are just 2-6 in December, having allowed 28 goals in that span.
"When you're not working, you're going to look like that," said coach Peter Laviolette, 2-5 since taking over from John Stevens. "We were on our heels, we're not on our toes. Last night we were on our toes. We won the battles, won the races to loose pucks and open areas and tonight we did not."
Pittsburgh, now with a three-game win streak, came in ranked just 29th on the power play despite its talented cast.
Shall we dance?
There were three fights within a 16-second span in the first period.
Arron Asham of the Flyers took on Pittsburgh's Michael Rupp, followed by a bout six seconds later between Philadelphia's Riley Cote and a former Western Hockey League contemporary, Eric Godard of the Penguins.
Finally, Craig Adams of Pittsburgh and his 27 penalty minutes stepped up to the challenge of Daniel Carcillo, he of the 87 PIM and a recent suspension.
"In juniors I've seen that — back-to-back-to-back [fights] like that — but not up here," Crosby said. "It was pretty exciting for both teams. It lived up to the rivalry, that game."
The Penguins appeared to be headed for another power-play miss in the early going, but a bouncing puck found its way to the right player. Crosby got full extension on a loose puck in the right circle to beat Brian Boucher.
Soon after a trio of fights entertained the crowd (see sidebar), Crosby took a shot that Boucher couldn't muzzle. The puck trickled off the goalie's back skate and into the crease for veteran forward Guerin to shovel it home for a 2-0 lead just over six minutes into the game.
Flyers sniper Jeff Carter rang a shot off the post midway through the period, a prelude to a period of sustained pressure in Pittsburgh's end. Fleury was forced to make a couple of saves, including one with his blocker on defenceman Matt Carle.
With Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins in the box for tripping, Carcillo took a Mike Richards redirect and beat Marc-Andre Fleury with his backhander from the slot to halve the margin.
Carcillo has played several shifts with Richards and Carter in his two games back since serving a four-game ban for punching Washington's Matt Bradley.
Malkin took another penalty less than three minutes later but it was Pittsburgh that connected. The Flyers didn't get set up in the Pittsburgh end, allowing the Penguins to storm down the ice on a 2-on-1 that ended with Staal firing a high wrister for a 3-1 score. It was the 10th short-handed goal of his career.
The second period was highly competitive, with Malkin drilling a shot from the left side on a power play to give Boucher a stern test.
Carter redirected a Richards shot on a Philadelphia power play late in the period, but Fleury gloved the puck.
The Flyers squandered an odd-man rush in the final seconds of the period, and Pittsburgh headed up ice to score a backbreaker.
Crosby gained the Philadelphia zone, waiting for a trailer. He found Kris Letang, whose shot was saved by Boucher but produced an easy rebound put-in for Staal with just 15 seconds left in the period.
Philadelphia appeared to get within two early in the third, but replays showed that Carcillo kicked a Fleury rebound into the cage.
Malkin dazzled by dropping a pass between his legs to Fedotenko, who snapped his sixth of the season home at 13:40.
With just 1:21 left, Malkin fired a low shot from the middle of the Philadelphia zone that eluded Boucher, who finished with 29 saves.
Fleury made 26 stops in the Pittsburgh net.
Pittsburgh has won both meetings between the clubs this season after prevailing in a six-game playoff battle with the Flyers in April.
"We're not playing with enough heart right now to win," Richards said.
Pittsburgh has a more welcome kind of problem. Maxime Talbot, their Stanley Cup hero in June, was a healthy scratch.