PHILADELPHIA -- The five goals the Flyers got behind Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 3 of this first-round playoff series were the most the Penguins goaltender had allowed in 22 starts, dating to a 5-2 loss Feb. 22 at Washington.
Did Philadelphia get to Fleury a little?
"I sure hope so," Flyers winger Scott Hartnell said yesterday of his team's 6-3 win (including an empty-net goal) to close the series gap to a 2-1 Penguins lead going into Game 4 tonight at Wachovia Center.
"We did a good job [Sunday] of getting to the net, getting second chances and changing the angle of the puck. It seems like he can stop that first shot most of the time. When we get him moving side to side, it seems like we've been getting some better chances and last game we put them in the back of the net."
Fleury made just such a move to rob center Jeff Carter on a toe save in the third period of Game 2 and prevent Philadelphia from getting a two-goal lead in what ended up a 3-2 Penguins overtime win.
Or did he?
"I'm not sure if he made that save or we hit him," Flyers coach John Stevens said.
Regardless, the Flyers got a lift from their high output Sunday.
"It sure felt good to get five goals plus an empty-netter," said winger Simon Gagne, who scored twice Sunday, including the capper with Fleury pulled.
"I'm sure he's going to battle back. He proved all year that he's one of the best goalies in the league."
After taking a closer look at Penguins winger Chris Kunitz's big first-period hit on Flyers top defenseman Kimmo Timonen, Stevens questioned Kunitz's intent.
"He's not just trying to get the puck there; he's trying to hit him to hurt him," Stevens said.
Stevens had no qualms with the fact the NHL did not launch an investigation that could result in a penalty or fine -- "If they didn't feel he crossed the line, then he didn't cross the line," he said -- and he defended Hartnell's response of engaging Kunitz in a fight.
"[Hartnell] did his best to just make sure it was an even challenge, send a message and he stood up for his teammate," Stevens said.
"I feel the game has a way of policing itself. You can't let, over 82 games in the season, your best players get run like that or you won't have any best players by the end of the year."
Kunitz, saying the Penguins are trying to wear down the Philadelphia defense, described the play.
"Sid [Crosby] was pressuring him hard and the puck kind of bobbled," he said. "I just came down to finish a check. It looked probably worse than it was. I think he pulled away and then kind of spun out. It's just one of those things. You go hard and try to finish your checks."
As the Flyers want to do against the Penguins' stars.
"They want to hit our skill; we want to hit their skill," Hartnell said. "Every little bump you give [Evgeni] Malkin and Crosby, hopefully, it wears them down over a series."
Stevens' attempts to switch and try to match Carter against Crosby's line and Mike Richards against Malkin's lines were thwarted at times because Penguins interim coach Dan Bylsma mixed things up, including putting Malkin on Crosby's wing some. "It becomes a little bit of a chess match because they start to move people around," Stevens said. "I don't want to get people on the ice that are tired." ... Game 3 drew a 1.7 national overnight rating for NBC, the best number for an NHL game on that network this year other than the Winter Classic Jan. 1 in Chicago.
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721.