CHICAGO - Peter Laviolette got what he wanted. By inserting the supercharged ion that is Dan 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 momentum in this series.
If not, this will be over faster than Ben Eager scored his backbreaking 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, the odd man out when Jeff Carter returned, was back in the lineup. And he played just like Dan Carcillo. It wasn't the lineup change that backfired so much as the strategy it portended. Carcillo replaced Simon Gagne on Mike Richards' line, a signal the Flyers favored hitting over shooting.
"I thought we were playing too conservative in the first two periods," forward Danny Briere said. "We didn't give them much, I understand that, but it's really not our type of hockey. We didn't forecheck. We didn't create much offensively. We all talked about tightening up defensively. But tightening up defensively doesn't mean no forecheck and no offense. I thought we sat back on our heels too much."
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.
"He hits everything that moves," Richards said.
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.
In that first period, Carcillo was on the ice more than Gagne, the Flyers' best goal scorer; more than surprise-of-the-playoffs Ville Leino, more than Arron Asham. The Flyers managed an absurd three shots on goal. Chicago had nine.
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 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. Suddenly Gagne had three times the ice time of Carcillo. Briere played twice as many minutes in the third as he did in that wasted first period.
"We went back to our old lines," Gagne said.
The Flyers dominated the third period, thanks partly to Chicago playing to protect its lead. Gagne made it a one-goal game, turning the final 14 minutes, 40 seconds - especially the last two frantic minutes - into blink-at-your-own-risk, hypertension time.
"The third period was our best period so far," Kimmo Timonen said. "That's our game. That's us. We can skate, and we can create turnovers by skating."
Laviolette can't simulate that third-period desperation, but he has to find the combinations that create the right kind of energy. At the same time, he can't sacrifice the steady approach 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.
"We have to build off how well we've played at home lately," Richards said.
"We have to add another gear," Timonen said. "The third period was all about us. If we can keep playing that way for 60 minutes, we can win games."
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'.