Road, sweet road: Hossa scores two goals as Penguins top Flyers
Sidney Crosby celebrates a goal by Marian Hossa in the first period.
Jordan Staal takes the puck away from the Flyers' Randy Jones.
Crosby collides with linesman Brad Lazarowich.
Marc-Andre Fleury makes one of his 17 saves.
Adam Hall knocks the puck away from the Flyers' Ryan Parent.
A save -- by Fleury.
Ryan Malone celebrates his third-period goal.
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Penguins held Philadelphia to 18 shots in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final last night.
Many were from long distance or bad angles, and few constituted serious scoring threats.
It's no surprise, then, that the Penguins felt they learned something important during their 4-1 victory over the Flyers at the Wachovia Center.
It just isn't the lesson that might have been expected.
Sure, the Penguins acknowledged they were good defensively. It'd be pretty tough to deny it, let alone to find any meaningful evidence to support such an idea.
But what they took out of the game is that they can upgrade their defensive work.
Quite a bit, actually.
And they plan to do it as they try to clinch the franchise's first berth in the Stanley Cup final since 1992 when they face the Flyers in Game 4 here tomorrow at 7:38 p.m.
"It was fairly good, but there were still a few mistakes with the puck," left winger Jarkko Ruutu said. "We can still do a lot better."
A lot better might put them a few notches above perfection, but that seems to be the objective.
"We have some little things to work on to make sure we're sharp for Game 4," winger Ryan Malone said.
This is the third consecutive series in which the Penguins have won the first three games; they are the fourth NHL team to win 11 of its first 12 games in a playoff year and the first since Edmonton in 1983.
Only two teams in league history have rebounded from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. Unless the Flyers or Dallas can become the third, the Cup final will match the Penguins against Detroit.
Penguins left winger Gary Roberts did not play in Game 3 because of a respiratory ailment, although team officials emphatically denied a Canadian report that he had been diagnosed with pneumonia. His place on the fourth line with Max Talbot and Georges Laraque was taken by Adam Hall.
Before the game, the Flyers broke out a tape of the late Kate Smith singing "God Bless America," and paired segments of it with a live performance by Lauren Hart, their usual pre-game singer.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia, once the game began, it again had to rely on a defense corps that, with Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn injured, has puck skills and mobility rivaling those of Smith. In her later years.
That certainly contributed to Philadelphia generating just eight shots on Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury during the first 40 minutes.
"Especially the first two periods, we didn't give them much at all," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said.
Fact is, they could have used razor wire to set up a perimeter around Fleury, and it couldn't have been much more of a deterrent to the Flyers' offense. They not only limited the quantity and quality of Philadelphia's shots, but allowed very few second-chance opportunities.
"It was pretty much all working for us tonight, defensively," defenseman Rob Scuderi said.
The Penguins had braced for an early surge by the Flyers, but got the only goals they would need during the first eight minutes , when two of their first four shots eluded Flyers goalie Martin Biron.
Ryan Whitney opened the scoring during a power play at 5:03, when his pass to Crosby from low in the left circle caromed off Flyers defenseman Jason Smith and into the net.
"He put a puck on net, got a great bounce, and that's a big goal for us in a difficult place," Crosby said.
So was Marian Hossa's game-winner at 7:41, when he carried the puck through the neutral zone, deking past Philadelphia center Jeff Carter in the process, before using defenseman Lasse Kukkonen as a screen to beat Biron with a shot low on the glove side.
"I don't think the goalie saw that puck," Hossa said.
Probably not, but the goal judge did.
R.J. Umberger got the Flyers' only goal from the slot at 10:59 of the first, but Malone scored an insurance goal at 9:58 of the third and Hossa hit an empty net with 53.7 seconds left to close out the scoring. And put his team one victory away from a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup.
Not that the Penguins are focused on what might be in their short-term future.
"You just kind of keep your head down, keep working and, hopefully, good things will happen," Scuderi said. "So far, it's worked well for us."
First Published May 14, 2008 12:00 am