Roberts sparks Penguins' 4-3 shootout victory
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Bob Donaldson, Post-Gazette
Sidney Crosby slips the puck through the pads of Flyers goalie Martin Biron to clinch the Penguins' come-from-behind, 4-3 shootout victory against Philadelphia Flyers yesterday at Mellon Arena.
The most pressing question before this game was about semantics, and whether the Penguins going 8-0 against Philadelphia would constitute a "sweep."
After all, the Flyers had taken their previous meeting to a shootout before losing, and thus hadn't been completely shut out in the season series.
For much of the afternoon, it looked as if the point might be moot because a Flyers victory would have soured any sweep scenario. But, even after the Penguins had salvaged a 4-3 shootout victory at Mellon Arena yesterday, the focus continued to be on words.
Like whether it was more accurate to describe their performance during the first period as a "start-to-finish embarrassment," or as a "20-minute disgrace that could be neither explained nor excused."
Not an easy call there. Both fit so well.
However it is characterized -- and, if a Penguins player had offered a truly candid assessment, the issue would not have been whether it was fit for a family newspaper, but whether it was too coarse to be part of the conversation at a table full of drunken sailors -- the reality is that the Penguins' miserable start ultimately was overshadowed by a pretty fair finish.
No matter that they didn't get their first lead until the start of the shootout; what counted was that they were in front when it ended.
"We found a way," left winger Gary Roberts said. "And that's the big thing."
Whether their 8-0 record against the Flyers in 2006-07 should be regarded as a sweep remains conjecture. The NHL does not offer a formal definition -- it was a non-issue until teams began to receive points for overtime and shootout losses -- but the considered opinion of the Elias Sports Bureau seems to be that this does not qualify because the Flyers were not held without a point.
Early on, Philadelphia seemed a decent bet to return home with a couple of them because the Penguins turned in a performance that coach Michel Therrien said "looked like a nightmare." Anyone who considered it a work of Art must have been thinking about Carney or Buchwald.
The Penguins (35-21-9) displayed little composure -- witness the abuse-of-an-official minor assessed after Therrien offered a scalding critique of the referees' work while his team was already short-handed -- and not much more commitment during the first period, when the Flyers grabbed a 2-0 lead.
"I don't think we want to start too many games like that," center Sidney Crosby said.
Probably not, because if it wasn't their worst period of the season, it certainly was a medallist.
"We could have played a lot better," defenseman Ryan Whitney said.
Even if they had been wearing blindfolds and street shoes.
Erik Christensen, who scored the Penguins' second and third goals, then put another puck behind Flyers goalie Martin Biron in the shootout, said "our legs weren't into it" during the first. Nor were any of their other major body parts.
"I don't know if it was the worst [period of the season]," Therrien said. "But it was not a good one."
Starting seven hours earlier than usual seemed to cause them numerous problems -- "I haven't played a 12:30 game since [youth] hockey," Roberts said -- although the Flyers didn't look at all disoriented by playing around the time they normally would have been wrapping up their morning skate.
Mike York gave them a 1-0 lead 96 seconds after the opening faceoff, and Braydon Coburn made it 2-0 when he wristed a shot that hopped past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from just inside the blue line at 13:40.
"It just made a big bounce and bounced under my arm, I think," Fleury said.
It was Coburn's first goal in the NHL. And probably the last one he'll get like that.
"Those things happen," Therrien said. "It was not a good goal, but what can you do?"
Fleury atoned by being almost unbeatable the rest of the way -- "He made some great saves," Therrien said -- and Roberts sparked the Penguins' comeback with inspired work all over the ice. He scored their first goal, assisted on both of Christensen's and was credited with a team-high four hits.
"He's the one who led that team to victory," Therrien said. "There's no doubt in my mind."
Christensen played a significant role, too, recording his second two-goal game of the season and joining Crosby in depositing pucks behind Biron as the Penguins won their sixth shootout in a row.
And, when the standings are finalized in a month or so, this victory will count as much as any other. There will be no asterisk because it came after such a wretched start, or against the worst team in the league.
Which really should be the final word on the subject.Bob Donaldson, Post-Gazette
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury deflects the shootout attempt by the Flyers' Scottie Upshall yesterday at Mellon Arena.
Click photo for larger image.
First Published March 5, 2007 12:00 am