The Philadelphia Flyers came out and beat the Pittsburgh Penguins today at the Wells Fargo Center 8-4 to move to within one victory of an Eastern Conference Semifinals’ appearance.
After Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier stepped up for the Flyers in Games 1 and 2, it was Matt Read in Game 3, as the rookie put home his first two playoff goals in the NHL. His power-play goal late in the second period was the game-winner for Philly.
“You look at a guy like Matt Read stepping up with the goals,” veteran Max Talbot said about Read before he commented on the Flyers’ other rookies. “They did it all season long and I feel like these guys knew their role all season long and they’re a big part of our team so they just keep on doing it and it’s a big part of our sucess right now.”
Danny Briere had another huge performance for the Orange and Black, as he had two goals and an assist for a three-point performance. Jaromir Jagr also finished the game with three points, all of which were helpers in his team’s third straight win in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
During the win, it was apparent that the Penguins were starting to fear the possibility (and eventual reality) of going down 3-0 in the series. After Briere made it 3-1 with his second at the 11:45 mark of the first period, Sidney Crosby single-handedly started and extended a brawl. The Pens’ captain whacked away at Ilya Bryzgalov’s hand after a whistle to start the disturbance and kept it going by knocking away Jakub Voracek’s glove from the Flyers’ forward when he was trying to pick it up.
“I don’t like any guy on their team there,” said Crosby after the tilt. “It was near me and he went to pick it up and I pushed it.”
Crosby then proceeded to initiate a fight with Kimmo Timonen, that Kris Letang finished, before he got into a bout with Claude Giroux.
In the third period, it was James Neal and Craig Adams that displayed their immaturity in the four-goal game loss for Pittsburgh. Neal, who led the Pens’ in points with two goals and an assist, laid out Sean Couturier in the neutral zone when the rookie was without the puck and unaware of the ensuing check.
“Yeah, I’m flying through the neutral zone. I’m regrouping. I didn’t even mean to hit him [Couturier],” said Neal after the game. “I don’t even know if the puck was at his feet or not or where it was. I think we just chipped it. I let up as much as I could and it is what it is.”
On his next shift, Neal tried to take off Giroux’s head with an elbow. As for Adams, the scrappy forward for Pittsburgh jumped on Scott Hartnell when the forward was on the ice engaged with Crosby before he threw punches at the back of Hartsy’s head. When Hartnell finally got to his skates and addressed Adams, #27 for the Penguins grabbed Hartnell’s hair near the end of their fight.
“”It’s awesome,” said Schenn. “It’s playoff hockey. You can see how hard everyone is competing and the hatred between these two teams, it’s a lot of fun.”
Giroux and Wayne Simmonds each had a goal and an assist, while Braydon Coburn and Schenn had a pair of helpers in the Flyers’ first home win in the playoffs since last year’s Game 7 victory of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Goaltending didn’t take place today at the Wells Fargo Center, as Bryzgalov got the win behind 31 saves on 35 shots. Three of his goals against could have easily been kept out of the cage.
For Pittsburgh, Marc-Andre Fleury allowed six goals on 28 shots, as the Pens’ goalie didn’t give his team a chance today. Brent Johnson took to the crease for the start of the third period and let Giroux beat him 27 seconds in, as he stopped four of the Flyers’ third period shots.
As for the scoring, it was the third straight game that the Penguins scored the game’s first goal. With the clubs skating at four players apiece, Jordan Staal beat Bryzgalov with a wrister from the top of the circle. Staal’s shot hit Bryzgalov’s elbow before it trickled over the goal line at the 3:52 mark of the first period.
Minutes later, with Voracek in the sin bin for high-sticking, Max Talbot put home another shorthanded goal to tie the affair. After Giroux skated into the zone and put a backhander on Fleury, Talbot managed to get a piece of the rebound and produced a seemingly innocent shot. However, the puck eluded Fleury’s cover-up attempt and bounced its way to the back of the net for the former Pens’ second of the series.
Talbot’s goal infuriated Matt Niskanen, who received cross-checking and roughing minors after the goal. With Giroux’s trip to the box for roughing as well, the Flyers enjoyed a power play immediately after tying the contest at one.
Briere’s first goal came out of the power play to give Philly their first lead of the contest. Fleury stopped Jagr’s shot from the point, but he left a rebound in front that Hartnell grabbed and threw cross ice to Briere. Fleury dove across the crease for a save attempt, but missed Briere’s blast for a Philly tally at the 8:19 mark.
Less than four minutes later, Briere deposited his second of the game and fourth of the playoffs to extend the Orange and Black’s lead to two. Working with a 3-on-2 odd-man rush, Schenn carried the puck over the blue line before he moved it across the ice to Simmonds. Aware that Briere rushed to the bottom of the circle and waited for a pass, Simmonds connected with the former Buffalo Sabre for a score that flared Pittsburgh’s tempers.
After the brawl, which resulted in Timonen and Letang receiving game misconducts, the Penguins were awarded a man advantage and made use of it. Neal flipped the puck in between Matt Carle and Andreas Lilja before the pair of defenders collided to allow the forward to beat Bryzgalov for a 3-2 game.
It took just 23 seconds for the Orange and Black to restore their two-goal lead, as Briere and Read out worked the Pens’ defense for a tally. Deryk Engelland had the biscuit behind Pittsburgh’s cage before Briere pickpocketed him and handed the puck to Read. As the Flyers’ rookie moved to the slot, he placed a shot through Fleury’s five-hole with 4:20 left in the opening stanza.
The second period didn’t see a score until the 10:31 spot, when Neal put home his second of the tilt. After Nick Grossmann took an undisciplined kneeing minor on Neal, the Pens’ forward exacted revenge with a one-timer through Bryzgalov’s five-hole to make it a one-goal game midway through the affair.
Less than three minutes later, with Chris Kunitz in the box, Read potted his second of the game that turned out to be the eventual winner. Jagr showed patience with the puck along the boards before he launched a cross-ice pass to Read, who ripped home a slap shot to beat Fleury’s blocker to make it 5-3.
Just over a minute later, an awkward play led to Staal’s second to make it a one-goal game again. Bryzgalov denied a shot from Neal and assumed the puck traveled into the corner, as he jumped to his skates and motioned to hug the post to his left. Unfortunately, the biscuit was caught in his equipment and rolled to the opposite post when he stood up.
“I deflected the puck in the corner, and I thought the puck was in the corner, but it hit me in my left shoulder and I was pretty sure the puck was going in the corner,” said Bryzgalov. “Back after the shoulder it returned to my blockers side and fell down, and I didn’t see it at the moment.”
Staal pounced on the chance and slammed it home for a 5-4 game with 4:20 left in the second period.
A goal from Simmonds closed out the second period and handed Philly the momentum to start the final period up by a pair of goals. After Coburn picked up the puck following a clear from Pitt’s penalty-kill unit, he hit Simmonds with a pass that traveled from Philly’s blue line to Pitt’s blue line. Simmer charged towards Fleury and went from his forehand to his backhand, as he dragged the puck across the crease to set up his shot that beat Fleury’s blocker.
In the third period, Johnson’s first shot against was also his first goal against. Jagr fought off a Pascal Dupuis hold before he one-handed a backhanded pass to Giroux, who one-timed a rocket past Johnson 27 seconds into the final frame.
Towards the end of the period, Talbot put home his second of the game. After the Penguins meltdown, a backhander from Talbot on a no-look attempt beat Johnson far post to give Philadelphia a total of eight goals for a second straight contest.
Finishing the game shorthanded due to a double minor from Zac Rinaldo, the Flyers came out with a 8-4 victory and a chance to end the series with a sweep at home on Wednesday night.
Notes: The Flyers will be looking for their first sweep of a playoff series since 1995 when they beat the New York Rangers in four straight in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and just their 11th sweep in franchise history…Per Elias, the last time the Flyers had three power play goals in a playoff game was Game 5 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Buffalo on April 20, 2000 (5-2 W)…Briere picked up his 100th career playoff point today in his 100th career playoff game. He now has 46 goals and 55 assists for 101 points in 100 games…Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the Flyers have set a new franchise record for most goals scored in the first three games of a playoff series (20). The previous record of 17 was set during the 1980 Semifinals vs. Minnesota – a 6-5 loss in Game 1, a 7-0 win in Game 2 and a 5-3 win in game 3…Coburn led all players with 27:25 of ice time and also all players with six hits.