Flyers: Lineup change costly for 'big-game player'

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It was the one change the Philadelphia Flyers made to their lineup for Game 2 last night against the Penguins.

Winger Steve Downie, who had been scratched the previous three games, dating to Game 3 of the second round against Montreal, got his chance to get back in the lineup, with coach John Stevens calling him "a big-game player" and looking for some toughness, some hard work and some puck control.

It was that final element that failed Downie and the Flyers, as his turnover led to Max Talbot's deciding goal in the Penguins' 4-2 win at Mellon Arena -- a game that sent Philadelphia home down, 2-0, in the Eastern Conference final.

"It cost us the game," a dejected Downie said afterward. "We played well all night, and it cost us a goal."

Down twice, the Flyers came back to tie the score once with a Jeff Carter power-play goal and again on Mike Richards' short-handed goal off a breakaway with 23.2 seconds left in the second period.

They also survived an early blow when, less than two minutes into the game, defenseman Braydon Coburn left after being cut in the face when he was hit with a puck.

Hanging in there in the third period and with both teams' fourth line on the ice and early in their shifts, Downie missed a chance to clear the puck. Gary Roberts then caught up with it behind the net and sent a shovel pass to Talbot, who one-timed it past Flyers goaltender Martin Biron at 8:51.

"The puck came up my wall. I tried to clear it. It cost us a goal," Downie said. "I just fanned on the puck. Didn't get it out. Simple as that.

"No excuses. No excuses. That puck's got to go out. I didn't get it out."

The Flyers flew home last night a bit battered but confident.

"We don't feel like we're playing a team that's out of our league," winger Joffrey Lupul said. "We're right there. We had our chances. We didn't do it.

"We've just got to clean it up a little -- and we've got more."

Whether they will have Coburn for Game 3 tomorrow night is unclear.

Already without their top two-way defenseman after Kimmo Timonen was diagnosed with a blood clot in his left ankle just before the series opened, Coburn, their next-best mobile defenseman, was marking Penguins center Evgeni Malkin in the Flyers' slot at 1:51 into the game when the puck deflected up off Malkin's stick and got under Coburn's visor, opening a gash.

"He got a really bad gash on his forehead and across his eye," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "It's pretty swollen. We'll have to evaluate him further when we get home."

If Coburn can't play, Ryan Parent is likely to get into the lineup.

"He's been a workhorse all year," Richards said of Coburn. "He plays so many minutes for us. He's so strong. He's big. He's fast."

Philadelphia finds itself in a bigger hole than it has faced this postseason.

The Flyers lost Game 1 in each of their first two rounds, to Washington and Montreal, both on the road, and came back to win the series. But they didn't fall in an 0-2 hole in either of those series, beating the Capitals, 2-0, in Game 2 in the first round and downing the Canadiens, 4-2, in overtime in Game 2 in the second round.

"That's the thing -- it's right there for us, with home-ice advantage," Richards said of the next two games, when the Flyers will try to even the series at Wachovia Center.

"We need to be more consistent, find that next level that we have and just play better -- more enthusiasm, more physical -- and I think the crowd in Philadelphia is going to motivate us to do that," Richards said.

"It's frustrating. I thought we played well, but they had a couple bounces tonight."

None more fortuitous than the misplay by Downie.

"Turnover can't happen. Move your feet," Stevens said. "It is a costly turnover there. But he's a good kid. He will rebound from it."


Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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