Flyers' Locker Room: Philadelphia hopes home-ice edge will push series to Game 7
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The Flyers can't go so far as to say they have the Penguins right where they want them. After all, Philadelphia still trails in the first-round playoff series, three games to two, and for the second contest in a row faces elimination.
But they certainly have Game 6 where they want it -- Wachovia Center, home, sweet (and spicy) home -- thanks to a 3-0 road win Thursday night.
"Our whole motivation was to get it back to Philadelphia," said Flyers coach John Stevens, who appreciates the ear-splitting decibel level and passion that envelope his team's home games. "For our guys to get to play in that atmosphere, you don't need any more motivation than that.
"It's such a treat to play in Philadelphia in the playoffs. Our guys love it. The fans are awesome. Our whole focus was to get a game back in Philly. We made it 3-2. Now we've got to go home and play well because we know what Pittsburgh is capable of."
Statistically, things have evened out in the series.
Each team has scored 13 goals. Each team has seemed to have its goaltender steal a game -- Marc-Andre Fleury in the Penguins' 3-1 win in Game 4, and Martin Biron in Philadelphia's shutout win Thursday.
The Flyers have three power-play goals, the Penguins, four. Philadelphia's penalty killing is running at 86.2 percent, not far off the Penguins' 88.9 percent.
With an average of 33.8 shots a game, the Flyers are neck and neck with the Penguins, who are averaging 33.
That leaves the intangibles in the wake of a game Stevens called "a real boost of confidence for us."
Philadelphia expects the Penguins' emotions to be different for Game 6.
"They're going to feel a little bit more threatened," said winger Mike Knuble, who notched his first goal of the series Thursday. "Maybe they didn't feel threatened enough being up, 3-1. Maybe they felt like they had a little bit more time."
The Flyers, meanwhile, feel as strongly about their chances as ever, especially since they clipped some of the Penguins' home-ice advantage by winning a road game.
"We knew we had to win at least one game [at Mellon Arena]," Biron said. "Now we're playing back home and it's a totally different ballgame."
If the Flyers win today to extend the series, they would have to take another road game Monday in Game 7 to advance and become the 21st team in NHL playoff history to overcome a 3-1 deficit and win a series rather than one of 210 who have not.
"We've always had belief," said winger Arron Asham, who got the first goal, the winner, in Game 5 and is part of a group of third- and fourth-line forwards who have made a huge difference for Philadelphia in the matchup. "I think we've been outplaying them quite a bit. We've just got to think about [today]."
If the Flyers come back to win the series, Stevens has a candidate for the turning point. It came in the second period shortly after Asham's goal in Game 5, when the Penguins had a potential tying goal overturned upon review because center and Art Ross Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin kicked the puck.
"I had this feeling that something good had to happen for us," Stevens said. "When that goal got called back on Malkin, that's the first break we've had for a while. Clearly, he kicked the puck. It was hard to see if he got his stick on it [after that] or not.
"When they called that goal off, we had a sense of, 'OK, we got a break and we're starting to play better. Now let's take advantage of it.' "
They did. At least for the rest of that game.
"I don't think we want to get too far ahead of ourselves," Knuble said. "It's one game. We're still down in the series. All we could do is force another game in Philly. We achieved that goal. Now we've still got to win that game. We're going to have our work cut out for us."
First Published April 25, 2009 12:00 am