PITTSBURGH - The spotlights in the Consol Energy Center were impossibly bright and blinding, flashing just enough in the pregame to reveal the packed Penguins crowd in all white T-shirts.
Just a few feet from Ilya Bryzgalov's crease, two mocking Penguins fans were dressed in bear costumes - Bryzgalov said this week he does not fear Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, only bears in the forest.
For the Flyers, Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals started - mentally and physically - in just about the most hostile way possible. It was loud. It was intense. It was filled with Sidney Crosby magic, even in the first 4 minutes.
None of it mattered.
It didn't matter, for the Flyers, that the Penguins scored three times in the first 20 minutes. Or that the Penguins had won 28 of their last 29 playoff games when leading after two periods. Or that the Flyers had allowed a two-goal deficit to the opposition for the eighth time in their last 13 games.
The Flyers proved their resilience again on Wednesday night, magically erasing a three-goal deficit thanks to clutch tallies from Danny Briere and Brayden Schenn that pushed the Flyers to a 4-3 overtime win over the Penguins in Game 1.
Jake Voracek netted the overtime winner for the Flyers just 2:23 into overtime. It was Voracek's first career playoff goal, and he called it the biggest goal of his career.
It was the sixth time the Flyers have overcome a 3-0 hole to win a playoff game and the first since that miraculous, 4-3 win in Game 7 in Boston on May 14, 2010, in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"I think, however many rookies we had in the lineup, we were just in shock," Schenn said. "We weren't doing things the right way. We didn't weather their storm. Before we knew it, we were down 3-0. For the young guys, that was a big win for us to get one under our belt."
Improbably, the underdog Flyers - picked to knock off the Stanley Cup favorite Penguins by just eight of 45 national hockey "experts" - lead the best-of-seven series, 1-0, and now hold home-ice advantage over Pittsburgh.
It was just the Flyers' second win in their last seven playoff games in Pittsburgh, including games across the street at Mellon Arena, dating to the 2008 Eastern Conference finals.
Historically, the Flyers are 22-8 in playoff series when taking Game 1. They have followed that up with an 18-12 record in Game 2, which is 7:30 p.m. Friday at Consol Energy Center. However, the winner of Game 1 in the last four playoff series the Penguins have played has gone on to lose the series.
The Flyers are 35-37 all-time in overtime playoff games, 3-2 vs. Pittsburgh. Their last overtime playoff victory over the Penguins was the five-overtime classic on May 4, 2000.
Predictably, Briere - the Flyers' top playoff performer from 2010 who now has 98 points in 98 career postseason games - carried the team on his back and nearly singlehandedly got them back in the game. Briere, who missed the final week of the season with back-related issues, got the Flyers on the board 6:22 into the second period, but it took more than a full period to get on the scoresheet again.
Up until Briere netted his second goal, Claude Giroux had posted just one shot on Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. The Flyers' shots well into the third period were still numbered in the teens. And they had just one power play compared to Pittsburgh's three.
Without a consistent forecheck or pressure, the Flyers offered little threat of even mounting a complete comeback. That was, until Brooks Orpik caught Briere with a late hit with under 10 minutes to play, giving the Flyers their first man advantage.
Coach Peter Laviolette said he tried to instill in his team a "realization that they could play" during the first period.
"It's tough to come back, we were kind of lucky," Jaromir Jagr said. "We didn't make any plays."
After miraculous, diving attempts to keep the puck alive in the Penguins' defensive zone, Schenn finally one-timed a slap-pass from Scott Hartnell with 7:37 left in regulation, making it even and forcing overtime. The Flyers outshot the shell-shocked Penguins, 13-5, over the last 22:23.
The first 20 minutes painted a dim picture of the Flyers' first-round chances. Crosby, Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis scored in succession.
As the bears mockingly danced in front of Bryzgalov, thoughts of his 17 goals against in four postseason tests last year with Phoenix danced in the heads of many back in Philadelphia. But Bryzgalov wasn't nearly the story. He gave the Flyers a chance to come back, hanging on to collect his first playoff win since April 25, 2010.
Briere said he "wouldn't recommend" trying to overcome a deficit like that every game, but that it was "pretty cool" to watch a game end in overtime with his team on top.
"We can move forward now," Laviolette said. "There were a lot of first-time experiences today. That's over with. We persevered. That's a good thing. The playoffs are like a loaf of bread. It's slice by slice. Some slices you really like, some are kind of moldy and rotten. One has nothing to do with the rest."