PITTSBURGH - There are some really swell things about winning the first three games in a best-of-seven series.
The best is that a team can have as many as four - count 'em, four - chances to earn the fourth victory it needs to advance to the next round.
A close second is that two of those opportunities, if needed, are guaranteed to be on home ice.
Which, in the case of the Penguins - who will face the Flyers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final tomorrow at Mellon Arena - is of no small significance.
They have won their past 15 games at home, including seven in the playoffs. Makes it easy to understand why they weren't particularly deflated after losing Game 4, 4-2, at the Wachovia Center Thursday.
"We've got a great opportunity here," center Sidney Crosby said.
There is, of course, no assurance that a 15-game winning streak will stretch to 16, but it's only natural that the Penguins would like their chances of keeping it alive tomorrow.
"We're a tough team to play against at home," coach Michel Therrien said. "We've proven it in the past, and we'll be a tough team to play [tomorrow]."
Of course, the Flyers proved Thursday that they can be one, too. Especially when they are as aggressive offensively as they were during the first period, as they built a 3-0 lead largely by putting pucks on goal and going after them. Hard.
The Flyers' early surge put the Penguins in the rare, although not unprecedented, position of having to wipe out a multiple-goal deficit. They have had a lead much of the time during the first two-plus rounds - a major factor in their 11-2 record - but the dynamics change when they're compelled to play from behind.
"You look at the way Pittsburgh played the first three games," Flyers goalie Martin Biron said. "They got the lead, and they were able to play their style of hockey, and kind of shut things down.
"[In Game 4], we got the lead. We were able to shut things down a little bit more. I think that it's been the key so far in this series. Get off to the lead, and then you get a couple of power plays to get your momentum [going] your way."
No question about that, although Biron acknowledged that it might be difficult for the Flyers to replicate that start in Game 5.
"It's a lot easier to respond when you're at home with your fans and the energy in the building," he said. *