In front of the faithful at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday afternoon, the Philadelphia Flyers advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a 5-1 win, sending Sidney Crosby and his Pittsburgh Penguins packing.
After Philly’s loss in Game 5 on Friday, Scott Hartnell said it was time for the Flyers’ defense and goaltending to get the Orange and Black a win.
With Ilya Bryzgalov’s 30-save effort and 40 blocked shots from the defense, Hartnell’s words seemed to properly motivate the club.
“It takes a sixty minute, full team effort. Everbody chipped in,” said Bryzgalov after the game. “It was do or die for us. If you want to win, you have to sacrifice yourself by blocking shots and bypassing plays. Do whatever is necessary. Do whatever it takes to protect the net. That is how you win the games. Sometimes if you get loose, the puck might end up in your net. It is so important to be sharp and everyone sacrifices themselves for winning the game. There is no big prize for winning this game, it is the price you have to pay.”
But let’s not count out the contributions by the star of the series.
Claude Giroux stepped up today with a goal and two assists, and started the opening shift by putting Crosby on his butt seconds into the game. He also hit the scoreboard just 32 ticks into the tilt and finished up by becoming the second player in franchise history to record at least 14 points in a single series with six goals and eight assists.
“It’s just sometimes when you have a chance to hit another player you just have to go out there and do it,” said Giroux. “I was able to do it first shift. I think tonight again our bench, everybody was positive, everybody was having fun. The last two games I think that is what we were missing we kind of were playing hard but we didn’t have fun doing it. We were playing a little messy out there. It was a great effort and playing that game was a lot of fun tonight.”
Hartnell also scored in the opening stanza for Philly with his second power-play goal in as many games, while Erik Gustafsson and Danny Briere scored in the second period. Gustafsson’s tally was his first playoff goal in the NHL, while Briere’s marker killed all of the Pens’ momentum they gained from Evgeni Malkin’s goal that was put home 36 seconds earlier.
Malkin may have been the only Penguin to record a point with his goal in the middle frame, but he displayed a lot of anger throughout today’s contest due to the fact he was getting shut down offensively.
Thanks to strong defensive play from Sean Couturier, Malkin did numerous things to vent his frustration, such as: pushing Kimmo Timonen into Bryzgalov in front of the net and away from the puck, slamming his stick as he returned to the bench, and yelling at Couturier before a neutral-zone faceoff near the end of the second period.
Marc-Andre Fleury, who was the main reason Pittsburgh could even force a Game 6, allowed four goals on 22 shots in today’s loss. After Giroux’s blast in the game’s first minute, Fleury couldn’t prevent Philly’s opportunities in the crease to keep his team’s hopes alive.
Dan Byslma illustrated the frustration Pittsburgh players and fans are feeling at the moment knowing the Flyers knocked them out of the playoffs. “I want to congratulate the Flyers organization on the series win,” said Disco Dan. “But, I really can’t wish them good luck though.”
“We put ourselves in a pretty big hole,” said Crosby about the entire series. “We pretty much had to play perfect hockey to get back in the series and did a pretty good job until today. We had a few bounces, obviously, that didn’t go our way today, but we played much better. Just, when you put yourself three-zero, it’s pretty tough to get back in.”
In the contest’s opening minute, Giroux made his mark. With Pittsburgh thinking they finally got to him mentally, Giroux decked Crosby in the neutral zone before he jumped on a loose puck in the offensive zone and ripped a shot short side past Fleury to give Philly a 1-0 advantage.
Later in the period, Hartnell deposited a greasy goal to put Philly up by two. As Matt Cooke sat in the sin bin for taking an undisciplined interference minor, the Flyers had several players crash the net following a Briere shot in hopes to eventually whack home a rebound. With the disc sitting underneath Fleury despite Joe Vitale’s clearing try, Hartnell came flying into the crease and shoveled it home.
One of the Black Aces added on to the total at the 5:25 mark of the middle stanza. Gustafsson, who made the line-up due to Nick Grossmann’s injury, let go of a wicked wrister from the top of the circles to beat a frozen Fleury.
“I just got a defenseman to defenseman pass from [Coburn]. I saw the slot of open ice, skated it. I saw [Giroux] and [Jaromir Jagr] on both sides and figured I would put it on net. I was tired and wanted to get off the ice.”
The shot could have possibly been deflected by Brooks Orpik’s stick, but either way the Pens’ goalie didn’t stand a chance.
Just over three minutes later, Pittsburgh posted their only goal of the affair. With Timonen in the box for hooking, Malkin carried the puck all the way from the Pens’ zone into the Flyers’ zone before he put a shot through traffic and past Bryzgalov in the right circle to make it a two-goal game.
After Malkin’s snipe, which seemed to shift momentum Pittsburgh’s way, the Flyers responded with a goal in the next minute to restore their three-goal lead.
Jakub Voracek slid the puck to Briere at the side of the net, where he put a shot on Fleury while the netminder hugged the near post. The disc bounced off of Zbynek Michalek in front and trickled just over the goal line for Briere’s fifth goal of the series. The Flyers celebrated immediately after the whistle, knowing the puck had traveled over the line, but the play was briefly reviewed before the face-off at center ice.
In the third period, James Neal looked to have cut the Flyers’ lead to just two with a power-play goal late in the third period. With Gus in the sin bin for his shot over the glass in the defensive zone, Neal pushed the puck over the goal line as he charged the net. Unfortunately for the headhunter, the disc only found the back of the net due to the fact he pushed Bryzgalov into the net.
Brayden Schenn tacked on the empty-netter with eight seconds left in the affair to put away both the game and the series.
Since they are the first team in the Eastern Conference to win their series, the Flyers will have to wait to see who they will play in the semifinals.
Notes: This is the fourth time in Flyers’ history they have beaten the Penguins in a playoff series. This was their first series win over Pittsburgh since the 2000 Conference Semifinal…The Flyers blocked 40 shots to the Penguins 14 in today’s win. Gustafsson had a game-high seven blocks while Andreas Lilja, Coburn, and Matt Carle each had six. The Flyers’ season high for blocked shots during the regular season was 28 vs. New Jersey on November 3. It’s the most by any NHL team in a playoff game since Montreal blocked 41 at Washington on April 28, 2010…The Flyers’ franchise record for points in a single series is 15, established by Tim Kerr in the 1989 Patrick Division Semifinals with 10 goals and 5 assists, also against Pittsburgh. The last player to post 14 points in a single series across the NHL was Crosby in the first round of 2009-2010…Today’s win ends Bryzgalov’s 18-game streak of allowing at least two goals against in the playoffs. His last playoff performance where he allowed one goal against or less was Game 3 of the 2007 Western Conference Quarterfinals, when he stopped 19 of 20 for the Anaheim Ducks in a win over the Minnesota Wild…Elias has confirmed the following:The Flyers had 12 power play goals in the series, breaking the franchise record of 11 set in the 1989 Division Finals against Pittsburgh. The Flyers had 30 goals in the series, which sets a new franchise record for goals in a six-game series (The previous record was 26 in the 1996 ECQF vs.Tampa Bay). The 26 goals scored by the Penguins tied the Flyers franchise record for goals allowed in a six-game series (The New York Islanders scored 26 goals in the 1980 Finals).