Pens beat Flyers, send series back to Philly
PITTSBURGH - Drenched and dragging, the Flyers left the ice on Friday night with nothing left in the tank after a furious push in which they tried to end the Pittsburgh Penguins' season.
PITTSBURGH - Drenched and dragging, the Flyers left the ice on Friday night with nothing left in the tank after a furious push to end the Pittsburgh Penguins' season.
This time, though, there were no miraculous comebacks to savor - except for the Penguins as they try to turn this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series in their favor.
Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy sniped top shelf on Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov just three-and-a-half minutes apart in the second period, and the Flyers were thwarted by Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's newfound brilliance in a 3-2 loss in Game 5.
Fleury, who has gone from sieve to savior in two games, helped the Pens stave off elimination and stopped 14 third-period shots to cut the Flyers' best-of-seven series lead to three games to two.
All of the pressure is squarely on the Flyers now. There is no denying that. In two nights' time, the Flyers have gone from sweepers to scary.
With each additional momentum-sealing save, the chants of "Fleury, Fleury" grew louder and louder, swelling almost to the level of the Penguins' clear-cut confidence heading back to Philadelphia.
"It's whoever wins four games first. It doesn't matter how much life they have," the Flyers' Matt Carle said. "We missed our opportunities. It's tough to know that we let those slip by, but we still have a good opportunity to close this out at home."
The Flyers have one more chance to extinguish the Penguins' Stanley Cup dreams in the friendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia at noon Sunday in Game 6.
Bryzgalov was neither the hero nor the goat in Game 5. He could hardly be blamed for the Penguins' two flawlessly placed goals. The Flyers' play with even sides in a series largely decided by special teams has been terrible.
For the second game in a row, the Flyers' only offensive production came from the power play. They have not scored an even-strength goal in 139 minutes, 33 seconds.
Yes, the Flyers have tied a franchise record for power-play goals in a single playoff series with their 10th and 11th of the series in Friday night's first period. They are 11 for 18 in the series for 61 percent. They also had 11 in the 1989 division finals against Pittsburgh, a series they won in seven games.
The Flyers have 11 power-play goals in five games. Boston had 10 in its entire 25-game run to a Stanley Cup last spring.
Statistics and records are sweet, but the only record that matters in the playoffs is the win total. And about the only positive the Flyers could take from this loss was the furious finish.
"We've got to get more hungry," Scott Hartnell said. "We need to get in there and get dirty. We had a lot of chances, but we need to get back to what's working. The last 10 minutes there, I don't even know if they had the puck across the red line. It's good to see that when we want to play, we can play."
Friday night marked just the eighth time in 22 tries the Flyers have not closed out a series in Game 5 while sporting a 3-1 series lead.
Now, as the asterisk is removed from another date remaining on the series schedule, the Flyers' odds of moving on to the second round are slimmer. The Flyers are still 17-2 in series when leading by 3-2 heading into Game 6, but they have gone to a deciding Game 7 eight times in 19 series.
They scored the game's first goal when Carle's snapper got through in the first period. Scoring first has been the kiss of death in every game this series. Not surprisingly, the Flyers' lead lasted just 3:06 on Friday.
Hartnell, the Flyers' leading goal scorer in the regular season, netted his first of the playoffs to give the Flyers a 2-1 edge heading to the locker room. But the game flipped in another three-minute segment when Staal and Kennedy tallied twice in a span of 3:38. It was the only cushion Fleury needed.
The next few nights will likely be sweaty and sleepless for the Flyers.
"We've had two opportunities, and we've failed," Bryzgalov said. "We've let Pittsburgh back in the game. We have a third one, and it better be done."