Niskanen's workload grows after ejection
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PHILADELPHIA -- Matt Niskanen didn't know until Sunday that he would be dressing for Game 3 of the Penguins' first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
And he surely had no idea that he would be logging 23 minutes, 55 seconds of ice time in what became an 8-4 loss to the Flyers.
But he, along with almost everyone else on the defense, had to take on some extra responsibilities after Kris Letang was ejected from the game for fighting Kimmo Timonen of Philadelphia at 12:02 of the opening period, while another fight already was in progress.
Niskanen finished with one assist, one shot, two hits and a minus-2 rating.
"I felt good out there," he said. "My legs were good. It's kind of tough to step into a series like this where things are fast and physical and nasty.
"I felt pretty comfortable with conditioning and feel for the game. I thought, obviously, everyone, including myself, made a few mistakes. That's why we lost the game and gave up eight goals.
"But I was happy to be out there."
Penguins center Craig Adams was tossed from the game after picking up an instigator minor at 15:18 of the third period.
Because that happened in the final five minutes of the game, Adams is automatically suspended for one game, unless the league overturns that penalty, which it can do after a review.
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik bristled when asked about this series being out of character for the Penguins, leading to an 0-3 series deficit. He didn't like the word "character" being used in a negative context.
"We have 20 guys that are giving maximum effort," he said. "We've made a lot of mistakes. I don't think any of the mistakes have been related to character, effort.
"We just haven't been very good. It's as simple as that. We can't point the finger. We have 20 guys that haven't played well up until this point. It's not just one or two areas. It's been every guy. It's been every area. We just haven't been good."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Flyers set a franchise record for most goals scored in the first three games of a playoff series (20) and for most goals in consecutive playoff games (16).
Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the most recent NHL team to score eight or more goals in consecutive playoff games was the Los Angeles Kings in 1993 when they scored nine goals against Calgary April 27 and 29, 1993.
"There's no real way to explain it, and that's kind of the way the series has gone," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said of allowing so much scoring. "If you add up our goals, it's pretty good, too [12 in three games].
"The bottom line is, we have to be better [offensively and defensively]. There's not a lot of explanation for some of the things that are happening. There are times when we're doing a good job and they get one chance in 10 minutes or seven minutes and it's in the back of the net. It's not always the easiest thing to explain."
Flyers winger Max Talbot is playing lights-out against his former team. He has two short-handed goals, an even-strength goal, an assist and has been solid defensively. Yet he still has to deal with the fact that many of the Penguins are close friends, a fact that became magnified Sunday in a fight- and penalty-marred game.
"It's playoff time," Talbot said. "It's the time that you play hockey and you play hard and you do what you feel is going to make your team win.
"Obviously you never want to see dirty stuff happen out there, but I guess it happens."
Asked if being on the other side of the bitter rivalry has produced some dislike for his former teammates, Talbot said, "You know what? They're a good hockey team. They play hard. ... All I want to do is play hard and do my best to help the team win."
Dan Bylsma passed Eddie Johnston for most Penguins playoff games coached. He reached 47. His record is 26-21 and includes the 2009 Stanley Cup title. ... The Flyers will be looking for their first sweep of a playoff series since 1995, against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. ... In addition to Niskanen, the Penguins made a lineup change at forward on the fourth line, dressing Richard Park rather than Joe Vitale. ... Because Game 4 will not be played until Wednesday, the Penguins returned home Sunday. They are scheduled to return to Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon.
First Published April 16, 2012 12:00 am