Flyers at home in Consol

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So what's next, do you imagine, for a team that can't flip the fleet, frustrating Flyers in its own house to save its playoff life?

Can the Penguins blow a four-goal lead to yank defeat from way down the gullet of victory, a five-goal lead, do I hear a half-dozen goals overturned en masse on an ice pond near you?

What are you doing Friday night?

Game 1 saw a 3-0 Penguins lead easily within the capable reflexes of Marc-Andre Fleury, who was 8-3 against Philadelphia in the postseason and locked on the puck for most of two periods.

But after a brief sudden death overtime in which Dan Bylsma's team barely participated, Fleury let a Matt Carle shot rebound into the slot beyond his reach, beyond Jordan Staal's reach, but not beyond the exuberant poke of Flyers right winger Jakub Voracek.

Voracek, barely two minutes into the overtime, showed that he not only shares a birthplace with Kladno's own Jaromir Jagr, but an opportunistic streak as well, flicking the disc into the net for a 4-3 Philadelphia victory and a monstrous jump in these Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

The Flyers can all but end it Friday at Consol Energy Center with any combination of events that wash out as a two-games-to-none bulge.

Less than four minutes into his first playoff game in 23 months, Sidney Crosby had the puck in Philadelphia's net, torturing the Flyers at his earliest convenience with an impossible play that shook the building.

Huge, it would appear.

Staal carried the puck on a fast track to a 2-on-1 barely four minutes later, sliding it to Tyler Kennedy and watching appreciatively as Kennedy buried it behind Ilya Bryzgalov.

Huger, it would appear.

But it was the increasingly amazing, the suddenly indomitable Pascal Dupuis who appeared to turn Game 1 the Penguins' way for good, flicking Steve Sullivan's unlikely between-the-legs pass from behind the Philadelphia net right into Bryzgalov's laundry basket, from where it somehow leaked onto the scoreboard to make it 3-0.



Because these Flyers are rarely troubled by a two-goal deficit, rallying as they have on 10 occasions this season out from similar or even bigger holes, each time adding to their pile of 103 points. They did it in this very building on the last Sunday of the regular season.

Dupuis' goal would make things too difficult for the boys in creamsicle and white, wouldn't it?

Surely the standard psychological sting for teams who get burned in the final minute of the period would apply, coming as it did at 19:23.

With one foot in the locker room, the Flyers suddenly had their predicament metastasized by 50 percent, which is no way to start a playoff spring you're hoping to elongate significantly.

Is it?

Dupuis has scored in 18 consecutive games. He has piled on 28 points in his past 24 games. He has taken his place among the vast Penguin constellation of the offensively gifted.

And all that did was give him the optimal vantage point for Philadelphia's methodical comeback, starting with a Danny Briere goal in the second period that didn't seem to ruffle the crowd in the slightest, perhaps because the home team hadn't lost all season when leading after two periods (32-0-2)

But when Briere scored again before the third period was half over to slice the lead to 3-2, the comfort level dropped appreciably, and stomachs roiled when defenseman Brooks Orpik took an interference penalty behind the Penguins net less than 90 seconds later.

It was the only whistle against the Penguins in three periods, and the best penalty killing unit in franchise history had liquidated all but 18 seconds when Brayden Schenn skated across the crease and tipped in Scott Hartnell's blast.

Right there in front of the quietest 18,565 people ever assembled.

It was 3-3.

"In the first period we did too much standing, too much watching," said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, who didn't feel the need to shatter any lumber after this one. "The third period we really started to play good hockey and felt good about the overtime coming out. It was a loud building, a completely different environment from anything that we saw all year. We have not seen that kind of energy in a building all year."

Briere represented the walking dead for Philadelphia, having literally been knocked into the middle of next week by a Joe Vitale hit in that overly nasty affair April 1. It wasn't known until he was on the ice last night whether his postseason presence was assured, but those two goals that obliterated a burgeoning Fleury shutout would seem to indicate he's ready.

But the more urgent question hasn't been changed or rephrased or edited by one millimeter in the fading echo of Game 1: When will the Penguins be ready to beat the Flyers in any meaningful game along Fifth Avenue? The place has been here two full years.

If the answer isn't Friday night, you'll soon be looking hard at Year 3.


Gene Collier: or 412-263-1283. First Published April 12, 2012 12:00 AM


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