Flyers embrace tenuous situation, confident going home
Penguins center Jordan Staal, left, takes a stick to the face from the Flyers' Jaromir Jagr in the third period of Game 5 Friday at Consol Energy Center.
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Judging from the way the visitors' locker room at Consol Energy Center cleared out quickly, and from the stoic faces, the Philadelphia Flyers might have to keep reminding themselves they still lead this Eastern Conference first-round series against the Penguins.
There is no getting around the fact that a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven set has morphed into a seemingly much more precarious 3-2 edge after the Penguins' 3-2 win Friday night.
Although the Penguins will face elimination for the third game in a row Sunday when the series shifts back to Wells Fargo Center, there will be increased uneasiness among the Flyers, something they plan on embracing.
"Pressure? I hope so because I love pressure," said Philadelphia center Claude Giroux, who was held to an assist after racking up 10 points in the first four games. "If the pressure's on us, that's good."
That doesn't change the fact that the Flyers have missed two chances to close out a team that was widely picked to be a favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
"Guys are obviously [ticked] off," Giroux said. "We would rather have finished it off, but we get to go in front of our fans. It's pretty wild in there. I have a pretty good feeling about Game 6."
The Penguins are trying to become just the fourth NHL team to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. The fact that they have crept back into the series hasn't left Flyers coach Peter Laviolette shaken.
"Our group has a lot of confidence," he said. "Leaving here, there's a lot of confidence to go win a hockey game. ... But I don't see that the scope of it being Game 6 would change anything for us. ... If you're asking us about Game 6 back in our building, I have a lot of confidence in our guys."
The Flyers have lived by their special teams this series. Through the first four games, they were 9 of 15 on the power play -- the 60 percent success rate by far the best in these playoffs. They had killed just nine of the Penguins' 15 power plays, but had scored three short-handed goals to offset that.
For most of this game, relying on their special teams was working fairly well.
Their two goals came on power plays, one five-on-four situation and one five-on-three. That gave them 11 power-play goals for the series, tying a franchise record for a playoff series.
Their penalty-killing yielded a Penguins goal, a back-door play with Steve Sullivan scoring to tie it, 1-1, at 14:51 of the first period, but the Penguins' next two goals were even-strength.
Philadelphia hasn't scored an even-strength goal since the third period of Game 3.
"Our power play did another great job, but five-on-five we're getting badly outplayed, badly outscored," winger Scott Hartnell said.
The Flyers' big chance Friday came with a power play at 7:37 of the third period when Penguins winger Tyler Kennedy was penalized for slashing Hartnell with the Penguins clinging to their 3-2 lead.
Philadelphia rang up seven shots, many of them in tight and high-quality, but Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury thwarted every one.
"It was probably his best game of the series," Giroux said of Fleury. "But we're up, 3-2, going home in front of our fans. Obviously, we're not happy about the results [in Game 5], but the faster we put that behind us, the quicker we'll be focused for Game 6."
A strong third period may or may not have some carryover for the Flyers.
"You've got to take the positives out of a loss, even though this one hurts," Hartnell said.
Winger James van Riemsdyk, who played his first game of the series after recovering from a broken foot, wasn't buying the idea of latching onto the positives.
"We lost, so we're not going to be comfortable with anything," he said.
First Published April 21, 2012 12:45 am