CHICAGO - As the Flyers were beating the Montreal Canadiens in five games to reach the Stanley Cup finals, Jacques Martin would enter the interview room after each game lost and speak of all the good things his team had done, how bounces did not go their way.

They were thisclose. They would make a few adjustments for the next game and be fine.

It defied your eyes, what the Canadiens coach said.

Peter Laviolette sounds a lot like that guy now.

Yes, the Flyers have lost two road games in this Stanley Cup final by just a goal each. So when Laviolette says, as he did after last night's 2-1 loss, "I'm not sure we should be frustrated, I don't think we were outplayed," it's hard to really kill him for it.

Because the Flyers did have the better of the play in the second period. And it did seem like they had coverage on Chicago's first goal.

And yes, they finished the game strong, had, in Laviolette's words, "More than enough opportunities to tie it."

But tell me you saw two evenly matched teams out there. Tell me you saw the same danger in the Flyers' attack as you saw in Chicago's.

Tell me you saw the same panic in the Blackhawks' defensive zone as you saw in your team's.

The Blackhawks won their seventh straight playoff game last night, their 10th in the last 11 games. Some have been close, some not so close, but the overriding theme is they respond every time they are challenged. The Flyers held three leads in Game 1 and none lasted for more than a couple minutes. They lost last night's game at precisely the juncture they seemed to be gaining control of it.

For much of their bouncy ride to the finals, the Flyers' formula has been the same. Survive the first period, take the game over in the second, defend your goal like soldiers at the Alamo in the third.

The second period is the only period in which the Flyers have outscored their postseason opponents. They have owned it so magnificently that it has propelled them. Even after being outscored 3-2 by Chicago in the second period of Game 1, Philadelphia held a 28-10 second-period advantage over their playoff foes.

Make that 28-12.

The Blackhawks scored twice in a span of 28 seconds, flipping around a period in which the Flyers had found their footing, stealing their postseason identity even, maybe. A 9-3 first-period shot disadvantage had renewed Michael Leighton's confidence and maybe the team's in him. If you looked up at the scoreboard halfway through the second period, right after Mike Richards' wrist shot trickled off the glove of Antti Niemi, you would have seen the shots at 15-13 and maybe even thought, "Right where we want 'em."

Because the Flyers were in that position again. Not completely in control, but the crowd had quieted and the Hawks didn't seem to be playing with six skaters all the time, the way it seemed in the first period, and really, any time they wanted it to in Game 1.

The Flyers could hide their glaring need for a third defensive pairing up until now. The idea that they were going to win this thing with Chris Pronger pretending to be two men and Kimmo Timonen at least 1 1/2 seemed an improbable one for three rounds.

Now it seems an impossible one.

Laviolette replaced Parent with Oskars Bartulis. Bartulis had a chance to clear Chicago's first goal. He was pushed off the puck by Marian Hossa at the side of the net, swatted away almost as easily as Hossa swatted the puck over the shoulder of Leighton. It wasn't Leighton's finest moment and it was followed by an awfully deflating one-timer by former Flyer Ben Eager on the ensuing Hawks rush.

But blaming Leighton for this one is a little off-center, because the side-to-side saves he made up to that point made Laviolette's game of knives workable. The real problem is that Parent and Bartulis and Lukas Krajicek are just not good enough to play significant minutes against these guys.

"We have to trust in all of our defensemen out there," Laviolette insisted.

Really, he has little choice. The Flyers get the last change for the next two games, and that will help. So will the crowd, and the desperation they ended the game with last night after Simon Gagne pulled them to within a goal at the 5:20 mark.

The third period has been Chicago's best playoff period. It wasn't last night. But like Saturday, it was good enough.

And this time of the year, good enough is all that counts.

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