PITTSBURGH - The cycle has been broken. In each of the previous two playoff rounds, the Flyers dropped the series opener, then responded with a convincing victory in Game 2.
Last night at Mellon Arena, the Flyers played well in the second game of the Eastern Conference finals, but not well enough. The Pittsburgh Penguins prevailed, 4-2, and can conceivably sweep the Flyers out of the playoffs this week at the Wachovia Center. Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is tomorrow night.
Trailing by two games to none is new to the Flyers.
"We did a lot of things we wanted to," Joffrey Lupul said. "We have more to give. We were shorthanded most of the first period, and we know that's how it's going to be against this team. That's just the way it is with the Penguins. We've got to find a way to kill these penalties. It was pretty clear tonight they're going to get the calls."
Pittsburgh scored two power-play goals as the Flyers took 10 penalties.
"This team hasn't given up before in the regular season, and we're not giving up going home," Scottie Upshall said. "Game 3 will be a different story."
Already missing their top defenseman, Kimmo Timonen, with a blood clot in his ankle, the Flyers lost Braydon Coburn, who was hit by the puck at the start of the game and needed more than 50 stitches.
"You've got five [defensemen]," coach John Stevens said. "You've got one of your key guys out. . . . I thought the other five guys stepped up and played a heck of a game."
Penguins center Maxime Talbot, who missed the last three playoff games with a fractured right foot, broke a 2-2 tie at 8 minutes, 51 seconds of the third period off a Steve Downie turnover. Gary Roberts chipped a puck off the back boards and Talbot ripped a shot in the slot for the game-winner. Downie's turnover on a poor clearing attempt came near the Flyers' blue line.
"Turnovers can't happen," Stevens said. "Move your feet. . . . But that's just a learned skill, and it is a costly turnover there. But he's a good kid. He will rebound from it."
It was a tough way to lose.
"This game was definitely up for grabs," Mike Knuble said. "They executed a nice down-low play for that [game-winning] goal. It was a toss-up game. It was there for us to tattoo. At times you get penalty calls and can't get that momentum going. That becomes a key factor."
That the Flyers trailed by only 1-0 after one period was amazing given how badly outplayed they were. At the least, it should have been 2-0 as it took a long video review to determine that Sergei Gonchar's shot off Derian Hatcher did not cross the line with Sidney Crosby trying to whack it in during four-on-four play. The ruling on replay was inconclusive because goalie Marty Biron's glove obscured whether the puck was fully over the line, although logic suggested the puck was.
Coburn was hurt at 1:41 after Evgeni Malkin deflected a Hall Gill point drive up and under Coburn's face shield, badly cutting him over the left eye and around the nose.
"My left eye is swollen shut right now," Coburn said. "I will keep the ice on it and get the swelling down and see what happens [today]." He listed himself as possible for tomorrow's game.
Early on, Pittsburgh again dominated puck-possession time, getting a wrister from Crosby at 10:48 on the power play.
"They were quick-strike power-play goals they got in this one," Knuble said. "It's just the fine line there. We can't give them back-to-back power plays like that. Not against that team. They were just licking their chops for another power-play chance."
With Danny Briere's line getting shut down, Stevens elected to use Jeff Carter's line as the first-unit power play for back-to-back man advantages in the second period, and Carter responded with his fifth goal to tie the game at 5:46. He one-timed Lupul's pass from the back boards for his fifth goal of the playoffs.
That goal juiced up the Flyers, who played a good period and mounted some end-to-end rushes off the breakout.
However, Hatcher (who played 28:31) was nailed for hooking Malkin on what appeared to be a clean one-on-one battle in the circle. Naturally, the Penguins made the Flyers pay as Marian Hossa got a juicy rebound in the high slot at 13:43, regaining the lead for the Pens, 2-1.
Near the end of the period, Malkin elbowed Briere to the head near the Flyers' bench. Briere missed one shift. A scrum ensued at 18:17, giving Pittsburgh another power play, and this time, Mike Richards picked off a Malkin pass and retied the game on a shorthanded breakaway for his third goal of the series and seventh overall.
On Mother's Day, Richards' mother, Irene, attended the game.
"I was just seeing where [Marc-Andre Fleury] was in the net," Richards said of his goal. "I know he has a quick glove, but I saw an opening and I just tried for it."