When the lights dimmed, and the Flyers limped to their locker room after the second period, unmistakable boos rained down from the rafters inside the Wells Fargo Center.

This time, for the first time all series, they were not for Sidney Crosby or the officials assigned to this asylum.

The Bronx cheers were instead directed at the hometown team that wasted a golden opportunity to close out the Golden Boy and his Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.

The brooms were safely back in the closet before the third period even started as the Flyers stunk out the joint with a 10-3 shellacking at the hands of the wounded Penguins, who were without four players because of suspension and injury.

That nervous energy emanating from the parking lots postgame was the thought of the Flyers awakening a sleeping giant, one that seemed near a sure death just 24 hours before. Jordan Staal netted a hat trick for Pittsburgh, league-leading scorer Evgeni Malkin scored his first goals of the series, and Crosby collected three points.

"There was a lesson to be learned," Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "I don't know if maybe we thought it was going to be an easy game. It was embarrassing."

Pittsburgh's margin for error is still razor thin as the Flyers carry a three-games-to-one lead in this best-of-seven series into Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center on Friday night for Game 5. The Flyers are 7-1-0 since the building opened Oct. 6, 2010.

On Wednesday, the Flyers largely conceded their chance to sweep Pittsburgh when goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was yanked after allowing his fifth goal on 18 shots just 3 minutes and 7 seconds into the second period. It was Peter Laviolette's first goaltending change in the playoffs since inventing a ridiculous three-man goaltending circus in the first round last year, swapping Brian Boucher, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Michael Leighton at will.

For the record, Leighton was in the building Wednesday night.

Bobrovsky entered the game, but the Penguins scored three more times in the second period alone to take a 9-3 chokehold after two.

Amazingly, Bryzgalov can still clinch a second-round berth for the Flyers by carrying a 4.97 goals against-average and .844 save percentage into Game 5.

In the drubbing, the Flyers tied a dubious franchise record for most goals allowed in a single playoff game, also set against Pittsburgh in 1989 with a 10-7 loss.

That one, at least, was close. The Flyers weren't even with a touchdown and an extra point of eliminating the Penguins in this game.

Since the 2005 lockout, just 14 of the 97 series played have resulted in a sweep. Pittsburgh avoided being swept for the first time in 33 years.

Now, with a win under their belt, the heavily favored Penguins will get two of their suspended players - 40-goal scorer James Neal and penalty killing ace Craig Adams - back for Game 5.

With Neal and Adams returning, the Flyers may have a trick of their own up their sleeve. James van Riemsdyk, out since March 1 with a fractured foot, said Tuesday he could have played in Game 4 if called upon. Friday might be the time to break out last spring's can't-miss playoff star.

Unbelievably, Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't much better than Bryzgalov to start. And it all started well for the Flyers - who owned two leads in the first period alone. In this Eastern Conference quarterfinal, though, the team that has scored the game's first goal has lost all four times. The Flyers took their turn sharing that stat in Game 4.

Despite three Flyers power-play goals in the first period, Pittsburgh had an answer for everything. They pounded in seven unanswered goals to end the game.

With more empty seats than people for the bulk of the final period, the Wells Fargo Center was as quiet as the Penguins and Flyers' fists for much of Game 4. Zac Rinaldo added to the series' nightly idiocy with a hit on Zbynek Michalek which earned him a game misconduct and a possible review from NHL official Brendan Shanahan.

But the Flyers and Penguins were too disinterested to trade blows, likely saving all their energy for a Game 5 duel Friday night.

Comeback Kids

Only four teams in NHL, NBA, and Major League Baseball history have erased a three-games-

to-none deficit and won a seven-game series: the 2010 Flyers, 2004 Boston Red Sox, 1975 New York Islanders, and 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.EndText

Contact Frank Seravalli at seravaf@phillynews.com