Fleury shuts door on Flyers as Penguins' season remains alive
The Penguins gathered around head coach Dan Bylsma, left, as they practiced at the Consol Energy Center today before heading to Philadelphia for tomorrow's Game 6.
Penguins center Jordan Staal, left, celebrates his goal in front of Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in the second period Friday at Consol Energy Center.
Sidney Crosby watches a puck shot by teammate Steve Sullivan head into the Philadelphia Flyers net in the first period of Game 5 of the team's first-round Stanley Cup playoff series at Consol Energy Center.
Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save on Danny Briere in Game 5 Friday. Fleury made 24 saves on 26 shots in the win.
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Perhaps the Penguins are not back into this series.
But they're not far from it, either.
Their 3-2 victory Friday night against Philadelphia at Consol Energy Center sliced the Flyers' lead in the series to 3-2 and made Game 6 at 12:08 p.m. Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center necessary.
Philadelphia still needs just one victory to advance to the second round, but that has been the case for a couple of games now.
The Penguins, meanwhile, need two victories to get past the opening round. And to claim a spot in hockey history by joining Toronto (1942), the New York Islanders (1975) and Flyers (2010) as the only NHL teams to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games.
Not that any of them are in big-picture mode at the moment.
"We don't really [look at] it as a series right now," Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. "We see it one game at a time, and it's a must-win every night.
"We're taking it shift-by-shift, period-by-period right now. We're not looking at the series. We just want to win every period, every game."
They didn't win every period in Game 5, but goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made it so that they didn't have to.
Philadelphia, trying to overcome a one-goal deficit, dominated much of the third period, but failed to get any of its 14 shots in the period past Fleury.
He was particularly sharp during a Flyers power play as the middle of the period approached, rejecting all seven pucks the Flyers launched at him.
During that short-handed situation, he denied Daniel Briere three times from point-blank range in the span of a couple of seconds, and, not long after the Penguins got back to full strength, he stopped Flyers winger Scott Hartnell from the front lip of the crease.
"He won them the game," Hartnell said. "Plain and simple."
Fleury finished with 24 saves, and the quality of his performance in Game 5 seemed to be one of the few things Hartnell and the Penguins can agree on.
"That's the best he's been this year, for sure," left winger Matt Cooke said.
The Flyers do not have an even-strength goal in the past two games -- their most recent one came 27 seconds into the third period of Game 3 Sunday -- but their power play has been so productive in the series that they might not need any to reach the second round.
Philadelphia entered the game scoring on a remarkable 60 percent of their power plays, and actually bumped up its conversion rate a bit during the opening period.
Matt Carle gave them a 1-0 lead with a man-advantage goal at 11:45, when he beat Fleury from above the right circle.
After Steve Sullivan countered with a power-play goal for the Penguins at 14:51 by throwing shot past Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov from low in the left circle, Philadelphia reclaimed the lead during a five-on-three at 17:35.
Hartnell got the goal by flipping a high shot past Fleury from the right side of the crease; the Flyers' two-man advantage -- made possible when Evgeni Malkin and Craig Adams were sent to the penalty box -- had been scheduled to run for 18 seconds, but Hartnell scored just 10 seconds into it.
Hartnell's goal was the 11th man-advantage goal of the series for the Flyers, tying the team record set against the Penguins in 1989.
Of course, Philadelphia needed seven games to get that many then.
The Penguins survived the Flyers' final three chances with the extra man. That might not seem like much, but, in this series, that's a remarkable run of success for the penalty-killers.
Fleury was, by far, the biggest factor in them getting through the Flyers' final man-advantage unscathed, but denying Philadelphia on its final three chances with the extra man has to have the penalty-killers feeling good about themselves for one of the few times in the series.
"When you get those kills, it just builds confidence," Cooke said. "Anytime you can have success, it breeds confidence."
The Penguins certainly will have that in Fleury as they head into Game 6. That does not mean, however, that they are unaware of the real bottom line on this series.
"It's a race to four," Cooke said. "They're at three, and we're at two. We need to win a game."
First Published April 21, 2012 2:53 pm