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Ron Cook

Ron Cook: Flyers' ineptitude doesn't diminish pleasure in watching Sidney Crosby dominate them

It doesn't matter that the Philadelphia Flyers are one horrendous hockey club. That they will miss the playoffs for the third consecutive year. That they have just one postseason series win in the past 10 years. That they haven't won a Stanley Cup in 17,455 days.

But who is counting?

Isn't it still great fun watching Sidney Crosby torture the Flyers, especially now that John Tortorella is their coach?

Saturday was a marvelous day at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins beat the Flyers, 5-1. Crosby scored the winning goal on the power play early in the second period. His teammates piled on late with goals by Jason Zucker, Jake Guentzel and Mikael Granlund in the final 5 1/2 minutes. Casey DeSmith continued to play better than Tristan Jarry with 30 saves.

The New York Rangers will be at the Fifth Avenue rink Sunday afternoon to face the Penguins in a game dripping with postseason implications. They have become a bigger rival for the Penguins than the Flyers. So have the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals.

But that doesn't mean the win Saturday wasn't really satisfying, especially coming just two days after the Penguins collapsed again in the third period of what become a 4-3 overtime loss at home to the Islanders. They came in with an NHL-worst nine losses when leading after two periods.

This time, the Penguins made Crosby's goal stand up.

It wasn't the least bit surprising that Crosby scored it.

In the Flyers' previous game here 13 months earlier, Crosby scored the 500th goal of his spectacular career in a 5-4 overtime win. When the two teams met in Philadelphia in November, Crosby scored his 52nd career goal against the Flyers in a 4-1 win. That's the most goals any player has scored against the Flyers.

Now, it is 53.

Crosby didn't speak to the media after the game Saturday, but it's easy to imagine he loved every second of this latest win. How could he not enjoy tormenting the Flyers and what few fans they probably have left in a discerning sports city where the Phillies went to the most recent World Series, the Eagles lost in the Super Bowl and the 76ers are among the favorites to win the NBA championship?

Flyers fans, mostly out of jealousy, have been giving Crosby the business since his rookie season in 2005-06. In a game in Philadelphia that season, he was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after complaining to the officials that the Flyers' Derian Hatcher wasn't given a penalty for shattering three of his teeth with the butt end of his stick and leaving him with a four-stitch gash on his lip.

"Crosby sucks!" chants have filled Wells Fargo Center ever since.

Meanwhile, Crosby has given the business to the Flyers on the ice ever since.

The Penguins' two wins against Philadelphia this season must have been especially satisfying to Crosby because they came against Tortorella, who is in his first season as Flyers coach. He has accused Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of being whiners on more than one occasion, once when he coached the Rangers and again when he coached the Columbus Blue Jackets. My favorite was the time he called them Pittsburgh's "two [bleeping] stars."

Tortorella has toned down his anti-Penguins rhetoric since Mike Sullivan became the Penguins coach. Sullivan was his assistant for seven seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Rangers and Vancouver Canucks.

Maybe that's why Sullivan didn't look at Saturday's win as anything more than two very important points in the Penguins' chase of a playoff spot for the 17th consecutive season.

"We think we have a good team," Sullivan said. "We like the team we have. We believe in this group. We're excited to work with them. We're excited about the challenge we have in front of us. We think we have what it takes. We really like what we have."

Do you get the idea Sullivan likes his Penguins?

It was easy for all of us to like them on Saturday.

It's always easy to like them when they beat the Flyers.

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