CHICAGO - Peter Laviolette got what he wanted. By inserting the supercharged ion that is Daniel Carcillo into his lineup, the Flyers' coach clearly wanted Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals to be more physical than the free-skating Game 1.
What he didn't reckon on was the Chicago Blackhawks winning that physical battle. They did, and so the Flyers are left hoping the change in venues will bring a change in the momentum in this series.
If not, this will be over faster than Ben Eager scored his back-breaking second-period goal.
Laviolette has pushed buttons and pulled strings like a master throughout the Flyers' improbable journey from seventh seed to the Cup Finals. His hot streak finally went a bit cold here Monday night.
Carcillo was the odd man out when Jeff Carter returned to the lineup during the conference finals. Laviolette said benching the energetic Carcillo was the toughest thing he'd had to do all season. Clearly, Carcillo was always a consideration to return to the lineup and, for this must-win game, Laviolette made the move. Rookie James van Riemsdyk was scratched.
But it wasn't so much the lineup change that backfired as the strategy it portended. Laviolette put Carcillo on the top line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, dropping Simon Gagne to van Riemsdyk's spot on Claude Giroux's line.
Carcillo announced his presence immediately, rushing into the corner and plastering defenseman Brent Seabrook into the boards. The NBC cameras followed Carcillo around, tracking his big collisions with Dustin Byfuglien and, in an unfortunate bit of timing, teammate Carter.
And of course Carcillo drew a foolish penalty, turning offsetting minors for Richards and Tomas Kopecky into a Blackhawks power play. Carcillo was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, which in this sport normally requires emergency medical personnel.
But here's the thing. In that first period, Carcillo was on the ice more than Gagne, more than Arron Asham, almost twice as much as Ville Leino. In that first period, the Flyers managed an absurd three shots on goal. Chicago had nine.
Gagne has been the Flyers' most dangerous offensive player since he returned from his broken toe during the second round. Leino's production has been one of the surprises of the playoffs, and a major reason the Flyers are here. Asham isn't exactly a sniper, but like Leino, he did have a goal in Game 1.
So the intention, clearly, was to make the Blackhawks pay a higher physical toll, especially early. And that might have been effective except that the Blackhawks delivered more, and more punishing hits, than the Flyers did. The stat showed 20 first-period hits for Chicago, including a game-high four by the bus called Byfuglien, and 13 for the Flyers.
It felt more one-sided than that.
It turns out the Blackhawks can play the Flyers' game better than the Flyers can play the Hawks' game. Game 1, with its scoreboard-taxing 11 combined goals, showed what happens when the Flyers forget to play sound defense. Game 2, scoreless until that stunning half-minute late in the second period, showed what happens when the Flyers forget to play offense.
Playing time returned to normal after that first period and, surprise, the Flyers outplayed the Blackhawks for long stretches. Gagne was on the ice about twice as much in the second period as the first. So was Leino. The Flyers outshot Chicago, 15-13, in the period.
Down 2-0 in the third, Laviolette had to go with his scorers and Gagne finally got the puck past Antti Niemi. That power play goal turned the final 14 minutes, 40 seconds - especially the last two frantic minutes - into blink-at-your-own-risk, hypertension time.
Going back to Philadelphia, Laviolette has some interesting decisions to make. Does he change lines around - maybe separating Richards and Carter, making them tougher for Chicago key in on, or getting van Riemsdyk back into the mix? Does he mix up defensive pairings, making that third team less of a liability? Oskars Bartulis replaced Ryan Parent, but he and Lukas Krajicek were on the ice for the first goal.
There's a risk in doing more than a tweak or two. Laviolette has to maintain the even keel that has gotten the Flyers this far. For Games 3 and 4, he'll be able to dictate matchups. That and the home crowd could lift the Flyers to a couple of wins.
They said coming out of Game 1 that they proved they belong on the ice with the Blackhawks. There was nothing about Game 2 that should change that. The Flyers can beat this team. They really can.
What these games proved, however, is that they will have to. The Blackhawks will not beat themselves. They are too good, whether playing their game or the Flyers'.