Flyers turn up the pressure and flatten Penguins
The Flyers' Mike Knuble gets a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury in the third period of Game 5 last night at Mellon Arena.
Evgeni Malkin hangs his head after the Flyers score their third goal of the game last night.
Flyers goalie Martin Biron makes a save against Jordan Staal in the third period.
Sidney Crosby battles against through a Flyers' stick in the first period last night at Mellon Arena.
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The Penguins understand that this was a lost opportunity.
At best, an ill-timed lapse that cost them a chance to spend most of the weekend resting and relaxing.
At worst, a grievous blunder that could lead to them having a playoff run measured in days, not months.
Just how severe the aftershocks of their 3-0 loss to Philadelphia in Game 5 of an opening-round playoff series against the Flyers at Mellon Arena last night might not be known for at least a few days. But even as the disappointment of their defeat was fresh, defenseman Sergei Gonchar found a way to put a positive spin on it.
On the most troubling aspect of his team's performance, for that matter.
"We didn't play as well as we could," Gonchar said. "That's actually a good thing. We have room for improvement."
Plenty of it, actually. Go much beyond the first period, when the Flyers showed little of the urgency one would expect from a team whose professional survival was facing a clear and immediate threat, and the Penguins didn't act much like a team intent on closing out the series on home ice.
"We really only played 20 minutes," left winger Chris Kunitz said.
Unfortunately for them, Flyers goalie Martin Biron played all 60 -- or at least as many of those as the Penguins forced him to -- while turning aside 28 shots. He is the first visiting goalie to record a playoff shutout at Mellon Arena since May 19, 2001, when Martin Brodeur of New Jersey stopped 21 shots in a 5-0 Devils victory.
"We knew he could play the way he did [last night]," Flyers coach John Stevens said.
Philadelphia, though, is to be forgiven if it is starting to wonder just how well the Penguins can play, because they have strung together three subpar efforts, and take a 3-2 lead into Game 6 at 3:08 p.m. tomorrow at the Wachovia Center mostly because goalie Marc-Andre Fleury refused to let them lose Game 4 there.
"They're a good hockey team," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "Do we expect to come out here and dominate a game? Probably not. But we expect a little more of ourselves."
Dan Bylsma, the Penguins' interim coach, made his first personnel changes of the series last night, replacing right winger Petr Sykora and defenseman Kris Letang with Miroslav Satan and Philippe Boucher.
Satan logged nine minutes, 24 seconds of ice time with a variety of linemates and had two shots, while Boucher played 18:04, assumed Letang's spot on the left point of the No. 1 power-play unit and was on the ice for the Flyers' final two goals.
"I made some decent plays and had some good hits," Boucher said. "I was on the ice for a couple of goals, and that's not what you want to do, but you have to move on."
The Penguins appeared to have a pretty good chance of doing that early in the game, if only because the Flyers barely registered a pulse for most of the first period, when the Penguins ran up a 15-5 edge in shots.
"They saw a chance to close it out in their building," Biron said, "and, in the first period, they wanted to set the tempo."
The Penguins did, and Philadelphia went a little more than 15 minutes without a shot, a stretch that began about 7 Â 1/2 minutes into the game and ran through the 2:32 of the second period.
"If we had played three periods like our first period, we probably would have had a better result," Bylsma said.
Could be, but the Flyers got the only goal they needed at 6:32 of the second, when blue-collar forward Arron Asham beat Fleury with a slap shot from above the left circle for just his second in 28 career playoff games.
The Penguins thought Evgeni Malkin had tied the score when he put in the rebound of a Gonchar shot at 8:25, but the goal was disallowed after a video review showed that Malkin had kicked the puck with his right skate and been unable to get his stick on it before it crossed the goal line.
Claude Giroux put the Flyers up by two at 3:25 of the third, and Mike Knuble converted a Mike Richards rebound at 13:12 to guarantee the series would shift across the state again. The Penguins' challenge now is to see to it that there's no need for a Game 7 Monday at Mellon Arena.
"We have to step back, look at ourselves in the mirror and play better," Kunitz said. "I think we all know what we can do, and we're all going to do that for the next game."
First Published April 24, 2009 12:00 am