A shot by the Flyers' R.J. Umberger is stopped by the Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury in the first period last night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final series at Mellon Arena.
By Shelly Anderson Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Philadelphia Flyers know what it feels like to be down, 1-0, in a series. All too well.
They lost, 5-4, at Washington in their first-round opener, but came back to win in seven games.
In the second round, Philadelphia lost at Montreal, 4-3, in overtime. The Flyers then won four in a row to eliminate the Canadiens and advance to face the Penguins.
That means they're on a trail they hope they recognize in the Eastern Conference final.
The Flyers kept the pattern going last night, falling, 4-2, to the Penguins in Game 1 at Mellon Arena.
"The upside is, we've always come back in the second game and had a really solid game, so [tomorrow], hopefully, we do the same thing," said Mike Richards, who had both the Flyers' goals and gave them a 2-1 lead in the first period.
The Flyers will have to address a few things if they hope to scrape back into this series as they did in the earlier two.
Namely, they will have to hold down the Penguins' big guns -- Evgeni Malkin had two goals, Sidney Crosby and Petr Sykora one each -- and certainly they will have to limit turnovers when those offensive threats are on the ice.
Malkin took advantage of turnovers for both his goals.
There was the momentum-shifting wrist shot from the left dot with 6.5 seconds left in the first period after he got the puck barely onside at the point.
And there was one of the more bizarre breakaways that produced the game's final goal at 4:50 of the second period, one that came with Philadelphia on a power play.
After getting knocked into the boards behind the Philadelphia net, Malkin got up and headed back up the ice, chasing the Flyers' odd-man break. But in the other end, Penguins winger Marian Hossa bumped Daniel Briere off the puck in the left circle, where defenseman Sergei Gonchar grabbed it and sent it down the ice.
Malkin, with no one around for what seemed like miles, got the puck near the blue line, skated down the slot and surprised goaltender Martin Biron with a slap shot from less than 10 feet.
"I knew he was tired," said Biron, who stopped 17 Penguins shots.
"He got up the ice, he came back, he got up again.
"When he lifted his stick up, at one point I thought he was just trying to pull a fake, so I had to stay honest on the play. He let it go and he had a good shot."
The Penguins then shut things down.
The Flyers were playing without top two-way defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who has a blood clot, and used reconfigured defensive pairings, but coach John Stevens refused to point to that as the reason his team had some trouble effectively moving the puck up to their forwards.
"No, let's stop there right now," Stevens said.
"Kimmo's not our lineup. We have six guys that are capable of moving the puck. I thought we had the start we wanted. We had the shots on net. We had the lead. We just didn't manage a puck as a group of five on the ice. Our support got too far away."
On the power play, where Timonen normally runs things from the point, Randy Jones filled in on the top unit, but Philadelphia was 0 for 3 and gave up Malkin's short-handed goal.
"Playing over 90 games with him, having chemistry with a player and then all of a sudden having another player, it hurts you," Richards said.
"It's something we'll have to deal with."
It's possible the teams with a healthy rivalry will have to deal with the added dimension of rough stuff, too.
The game was physical but relatively calm in terms of penalties until the final two minutes, when a large scrum produced 14 minute of penalty time.
"As the series goes, it's going to get tougher," said R.J. Umberger, a Plum native who picked up assists on both of Richards' goals.
"There's so much hatred. You saw it there toward the end. It could get worse. But we need to not think about that. We need to play better hockey."