Down 2-0, 3-1, 4-3, and 5-4 in tonight’s contest, the Flyers overcame every deficit they saw to ultimately win Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center.
Jaromir Jagr produced the game-winner 9:13 into the third period, while both Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux posted hat tricks to increase the Flyers’ lead to 2-0 in the series.
Couturier added on an assist for a four-point night, while Giroux was credited with three assists for a six-point night — one which set a new franchise single-game playoff record.
Max Talbot notched a short-handed goal in the first period and Ilya Bryzgalov once again did enough to win despite allowing five goals on 28 shots.
His counterpart Marc-Andre Fleury looked worse for wear, hung out to dry for seven scores on 30 shots. Chris Kunitz picked up a pair of goals, while Sidney Crosby, Tyler Kennedy and Paul Martin lit the lamp for the hosts, who are staring down the barrel of an 0-2 deficit heading back to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Sunday.
Midway through the third period, Jagr potted a painful goal for the fan base that once loved him. Fleury’s rebound off a Pavel Kubina shot from the point bounced to Jagr in the circle before the 40-year-old beat the Pens’ goalie far side on a turnaround chance for his first goal of the 2012 playoffs.
Since Wednesday night’s win, the Flyers have stated over and over again how they can’t keep winning in the playoffs if they fall behind early, especially to the Penguins. They gave the Pens another early multi-goal lead and once again the Flyers erased it to win.
“When you’re able to come back in a game like that again it speaks volumes about character in the room,” Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said. “Fighting back like that is not easy.”
But it’s a double-edged sword for the club with home-ice advantage now wasted, as Pens captain Crosby noted.
“We’ve got to find a way to be better with the lead,” said Crosby. “We know they’re going to keep coming.”
Tonight’s game started eerily similar to Wednesday’s opener, as the Flyers found themselves in a large mess after one stanza.
It took almost no time at all for the Pens to grab a 1-0 lead. After the opening faceoff, the Flyers changed their lines while the hosts brought the puck up the ice. Once Pascal Dupuis nudged the puck to Crosby in the neutral zone, #87 worked his way into the slot and passed to Steve Sullivan before receiving a dish back and scoring from the right side at the 15-second mark.
It was the fastest playoff goal against the Flyers in team history. The previous playoff record occurred on April 11, 1971 when Jim Pappin of the Chicago Blackhawks scored 21 seconds into a 6-2 Flyers loss in Game 4 of the 1971 quarterfinals.
For the Pens, the strike tied a franchise mark for quickest goal to start a postseason tilt, after Greg Malone did so on April 8, 1981 at St. Louis in Game 1 of a first-round series.
Near the midway point of the period, Nick Grossmann prevented a scoring chance, but committed a hooking infraction in the process. With the man advantage, the Pens’ impotent playoff power play suddenly became potent.
James Neal moved around the blue line before he threw the puck towards Bryzgalov’s cage. Thanks to a Chris Kunitz redirection, the Pens found themselves up by two 9:27 into the tilt.
With Grossman in the box again shortly afterwards, for a holding call which likely didn’t exist, Bryzgalov made possibly the save of the playoffs. Kris Letang was all by himself when he received a cross-ice pass at the right post, and all he needed to do for a Pitt 3-0 lead was toss the puck into the wide-open net. Bryzgalov denied the bid with an incredible cross-crease glove save to keep it a two-goal margin.
In the corner after the play, Matt Read slightly pushed Letang, as the Pens’ forward tried to argue the puck went over the goal line. Learning from the legends who have perfected the art of diving, Letang snapped his head back and dropped to the ice as if Read had taken a baseball bat to his legs.
Naturally, both players went to the box instead of just Letang but the move backfired.
After he stole the puck from Crosby at the blue line, Giroux flew through the neutral zone with Sullivan and Crosby following him. Giroux’s initial shot didn’t beat Fleury, but it did draw the attention of both defenders while Talbot trailed the trio of skaters on the play. The other ex-Pen followed up and chipped the rebound into an open cage at 12:44.
Wednesday’s game had Dupuis’ goal in the final minute of the first period, but tonight’s game had Martin’s goal. After Crosby walked into the slot and set up a drop-pass for Martin, he ripped a shot by Bryzgalov’s blocker on the far side for a 3-1 advantage with just 18 seconds left in the opening period.
To start the middle stanza, Zac Rinaldo was called for a hooking minor after he was hit up high by Deryk Engelland. After Philly killed off the questionable call, Crosby, believe it or not, was called for an infraction. As he set a pick on Grossmann to the right of Bryzgalov, Crosby exchanged a few words with the refs, something he claimed earlier in the week he has stopped doing since his earlier years in the league.
While the captain sat in the box, the Flyers capitalized to make it a one-goal game at the 5:11 mark. Jakub Voracek continued his status as a clutch performer, as he dangled Brooks Orpik out of his jockstrap before he backhanded a pass to Giroux in the slot. With a quick shot inside the far pipe, Giroux beat Fleury to convert on the Flyers’ first power-play chance of the contest.
Minutes later, Brayden Schenn was correctly called for an interference call on Crosby. On the penalty kill, Giroux and Talbot teamed up to produce another tally while Philly was down a man.
As Giroux glided over the blue line to the top of the circle, he moved the puck up to Talbot. The former Penguin spun around before he flung a pass back to Giroux, who wristed his second of the game past Fleury to even the score only 11 ticks after the infraction.
Pittsburgh seemed unfazed by Giroux’s second, as Kunitz responded with his second of the affair just six seconds later. Off a rebound produced by a Neal shot, Kunitz controlled the puck in the slot and put it home while Bryzgalov slid out of the crease to restore Pittsburgh’s lead.
Fighting back as they always do, the Orange and Black responded with their fourth score of the game in the closing seconds of the middle stanza.
Applying pressure in the final seconds of the period, a Braydon Coburn shot from the point forced Fleury to create a rebound to his left. Couturier found the loose puck and slammed it home for his first playoff goal, as only 2.8 seconds remained in the frame.
In the third period, the Flyers came out and earned the victory with four goals in the final period.
Just over a minute in, Kennedy scored on perhaps Bryzgalov’s softest goal of the game. Forced to his backhand from the middle of the circle, Kennedy let go of a shot that beat the Russian cleanly through the five hole.
The visitors came back with a quick response to even the score again. After he intercepted a Ben Lovejoy failed clear attempt, Couturier went backhand-to-forehand on Fleury before he roofed a puck to make it 5-5 just 17 seconds later.
The Penguins fought as hard as they could to try and even the score after Jagr’s go-ahead tally, but it was to no avail. To make matters worse for the Pens, Couturier potted his third goal of the night with under two minutes to play.
Giroux led an odd-man rush into the Pens’ zone with Couturier before he flung a pass cross ice to Couturier for his hat-trick goal — an easy tap-in from the left side off the crease with 1:49 on the clock.
With Fleury pulled, Giroux proceeded to loop his way through the Pens’ zone before he dunked home his hat-trick goal as well thanks to a Couturier helper.
Notes: The previous single-game playoff record was five points, shared by Reggie Leach, Bob Dailey and Mark Recchi…With his six points, Giroux jumped from 25th to 18th on the Flyers all-time playoff scoring list. He now has 16 goals and 28 points for 44 points in 42 career playoff games, which makes him (at this point) just the fifth Flyer to average more than a point-per-game in the playoffs over his career, joining Danny Briere (31-30-61 in 59 games), Eric Lindros (24-33-57 in 50 games), Ken Linseman (11-42-53 in 41 games) and Peter Forsberg(4G, 4A in 6 games)…Couturier’s four-point night ties a Flyers franchise record for most points by a rookie in a playoff game, matching Peter Zezel (1-3-4) done exactly 27 years ago tonight on April 13, 1985 vs. the Rangers in Game 3 of the Patrick Division Semifinals…This is the first time in team history that two Flyers have had a hat-trick in the same playoff game. The last time the Flyers even had two hat tricks in the same playoff year was the 1986-87 season…Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the last Flyers rookie to have a multi-goal playoff game was Andy Delmore, who had a hat trick on May 7, 2000 against Pittsburgh in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, a 6-3 Flyers win…The last time the Flyers had a hat-trick in a playoff game at all was May 2, 2004 by Keith Primeau in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals vs.Toronto…The Flyers have won the first two games of a series on the road for just the second time in team history. The only other time was the 1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Pittsburgh, which the Flyers won in five games…The Flyers are 17-0 in their history when leading a playoff series 2-0…The last time the Flyers scored eight goals in a playoff game was April 11, 1989 – Flyers 8 at Washington 5 in Game 5 of the Patrick Division Semifinals…Per Elias, the last time the Flyers had 2 SHG in a playoff game was April 26, 1997 vs. Pittsburgh – Game 5, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (6-3 W)…Talbot was plus-5 tonight, the first time he’s done that in any NHL regular season or playoff game…This is the first time the Flyers have lead 2-0 in a series since the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals against the Montreal Canadiens…The six seconds between the Flyers third goal and Pittsburgh’s fourth goal was one second short of an NHL record. The fastest 2 playoff goals in NHL history by one or both teams was five seconds, done most recently by the Penguins and Sabres (1 goal each) on April 14, 1979.