PITTSBURGH - It is always difficult when a club is eliminated after a long playoff run. But for Flyers center
, it was even more painful.
Yesterday's 6-0 beating by the Pittsburgh Penguins represented the third straight year that Briere had lost in the Eastern Conference finals. He played for the Buffalo Sabres, who lost to eventual Stanley Cup champion Carolina in 2006 and to Ottawa last year.
"Obviously, you want to take the next step," Briere said. "But at the same time, it's tough to get there. Three years in a row, especially. But I'm not going to quit. I'm going to keep trying. I hope to get another crack at it next year. That's my goal.
"We made a good step in the right direction [this season]. We have a young team. We have a team that is built for the playoffs. I like the grit and the speed of our team."
Goalie Marty Biron believes the Flyers are on the right path.
"We know that - we've seen all year - this team has the ingredients in place for success," he said. "I could see it last summer, the way they were positioning themselves. You saw some guys step it up at different times - young guys, veteran guys, first line, fourth line, guys were stepping it up, and that's why we had some success and finished the season the way we did.
"It was hard finishing the season trying to get in the playoffs. It was a big battle. It was a big battle against Washington in the first round. That's a team that could have gone further, and it just shows how hard it is to go further."
As much as Flyers defenseman
wanted to play in Game 5 yesterday, he sat out with a left-eye injury.
"He still has some issues there and I think the pace right now, he needs to feel comfortable," coach John Stevens said before the game. "He wants to play, like every hockey player does. But it was pretty clear to me he was not ready."
Coburn still has depth-perception problems in the eye, which was struck by a puck in Game 2.
, a 28-year-old Pittsburgh native who grew up in the suburb of Upper St. Clair, has watched the Penguins his entire life.
His father, Greg, played on some bad Penguins teams in the 1970s and early 1980s and never got a chance to play in the Stanley Cup Finals. Ryan Malone will.
"I think since day one of training camp, getting a shot to make the team was a great circumstance for myself," Ryan Malone said. "[Marc-Andre] Fleury was saying we all worked hard together. When you have all 20 guys on the ice pulling in the same direction and trying to make a difference, it's the biggest thing. . . .
"We still have a long way to go. So there's nothing to celebrate, that's for sure."
Malone had two goals in the clincher.
The Penguins' win ran their home winning streak to 16 games. They are 8-0 on home ice in the playoffs and have not lost at Mellon Arena since Feb. 24.
But Pittsburgh will have the home-ice advantage in the finals only if Dallas comes from behind to defeat Detroit in the Western Conference finals. The Red Wings lead that series, three games to two, with Game 6 tonight in Dallas. If Detroit wins, it will have home-ice edge based on a better regular-season record.
had a great chance to bring the Flyers within 2-1 early in the second period, but Fleury made a terrific skate save on his shot off a rebound.
"Fleury did a great job taking the bottom of the net away the whole series," Hartnell said. "Give him credit. He was there on every save."
Hartnell said it would take a while for the Flyers to get over the loss.
"It's going to sting for a few days," he said. "We're happy to get to this point, but obviously we're not happy losing. It's frustrating, a little sad, too. We'll just have to refocus this summer and get ready for next year."
, who leads the ownership group that kept the Penguins in Pittsburgh, spoke to the team after the win. "Good job," Malone said when asked what Lemieux said. "I think playing with him in my early years was a privilege. We all look up to him still."