Penguins turn 3-0 deficit into series clincher; catch fire after Talbot's fight
Jordan Staal bear hugs Marc-Andre Fleury in the moments after the Penguins completed their remarkable comeback to beat the Flyers yesterday at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia and advance to the second round of the NHL playoffs.
Share with others:
PHILADELPHIA -- The Penguins spent much of the past week insisting they were capable of playing better than they had been.
Then went out and proved it yesterday.
Except that for much of the afternoon, it didn't seem to matter.
Roughly 24 minutes into their finest performance of the playoffs, they were down three goals and facing the daunting task of trying to come back in front of 20,072 well-caffeinated fans, most fairly oozing hatred for them.
Seemed like a perfect time to panic.
The Penguins didn't.
And they got a 5-3 victory in Game 6 of their opening-round series against Philadelphia, along with a berth in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs to show for it.
Their turnaround had an unlikely source -- Max Talbot losing a fight to Daniel Carcillo of the Flyers 14 seconds after Philadelphia went up by three -- but also was rooted in the Penguins' sheer refusal to stray from their game plan.
"If we had to go back to Pittsburgh [for Game 7], we were going to go back to Pittsburgh," right winger Bill Guerin said. "But we were going to play our game, no matter what. We did, and it worked."
The Penguins had controlled much of the opening period by playing that way, although the Flyers got the only two goals then, and declined to abandon it even as some Philadelphia partisans might have been programming their GPS for a drive across the state to attend the Game 7 that won't happen.
Even when down by a field goal, the Penguins resisted any urge they might have had to alter their style. They kept putting the puck on Flyers goalie Martin Biron -- the Penguins finished with a 35-25 edge in shots -- and getting it deep in the Philadelphia zone, then keeping it there with their most effective cycling of the series.
The Penguins could play any of four teams -- Boston, Washington, New Jersey or Carolina -- in the second round, the starting date of which hasn't been set.
This is the second year in the row the Penguins have eliminated the Flyers, likely their most bitter rivals, but Philadelphia competed far more evenly this time, dominating some stretches of the series.
"They were everything we expected," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said.
"And maybe more."
Crosby, meanwhile, moved the fans who devote so much time and energy to hurling off-color chants at him to silence by scoring into an empty net with 27.3 seconds left in regulation.
It was his second goal of the game, and one that guaranteed the hockey season on this side of the Commonwealth is over.
"To get that last one and hear a little bit of silence was definitely gratifying," he said.
There didn't seem to be much chance of a decibel level in single-digits a few hours earlier, after Mike Knuble and Joffrey Lupul scored for the Flyers 51 seconds apart late in the first, and Daniel Briere put them up three at 4:06 of the second.
"We got a 3-0 lead, it should be over," Flyers coach John Stevens said.
Fair point. But, on this day, it was barely getting started.
Immediately after Talbot sacrificed himself in the fight with Carcillo -- "Max really stepped up," right winger Tyler Kennedy said. "He showed a ton of guts." -- Ruslan Fedotenko converted an Evgeni Malkin rebound, and Mark Eaton knocked a Kennedy rebound out of the air and past Biron at 6:32 to make it 3-2.
"We were just trying to survive after that," Briere said.
Crosby rapped a Guerin rebound out of the air at 16:59 and Sergei Gonchar got the winner on a slap shot at 2:19 of the third as the Penguins rallied from a three-goal deficit to win a playoff game for the third time in franchise history.
"They tested us," interim coach Dan Bylsma said. "That's something we needed to have happen. We've been tested. And we've responded."
First Published April 26, 2009 12:00 am