THE FIRE didn't need to be stoked.
As the seconds ticked off the clock on the Flyers' win in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, the two teams were jawing and Ryan White remembered what he heard.
"They were chirping," White said. "Just after the game, saying that they're going to the playoffs . . . saying that we're going to be done in a week. Of course we are. They had a couple stumbles this week. It was nice to put another 'L' in their cup."
For the Flyers, yesterday was their Stanley Cup playoffs.
White rally towels were flying, the likely giveaway planned for a first-round series. Chants of "You Can't Beat Us" echoed throughout Wells Fargo Center, replacing the usual "Cros-by Sucks!" One team's season was on the line.
"We've all probably been on the other side of it before, where you're talking down to teams that are struggling," White said. "But in a rivalry like this, you never want to put any extra fuel in the fire - and they did it. It was good to be a Flyer today."
Suddenly, after the Flyers' second 4-1 romp of the Penguins in 5 days, the Penguins' playoff hopes somehow partially rest in the hands of their counterpart in the Keystone Cold War.
Pittsburgh held a commanding, 14-point lead on a playoff position on March 13. Hours later, Ottawa whittled that down to two sweaty points. The Penguins travel to Ottawa tomorrow night for the Senators' final home game of the season, and Pittsburgh can clinch a playoff spot with a regulation win.
"We knew what they were fighting for," said Brayden Schenn, who netted the game-winner on the power play. "Any time we play the Penguins, it's always hard-fought, high emotion. I guess we're in the spoiler role right now, trying to make life miserable for them."
With the win, the Flyers swept the season series (4-0-0) over Pittsburgh for the first time since 1983-84. They've won eight straight over the Penguins dating to Nov. 13, 2013 - and they're 16-6-2 in the last 24 games against them.
The Flyers somehow managed to do it all despite being outshot by a 47-20 margin. It was just the 18th time in the last 28 years years that the Flyers allowed 47 or more shots - and just their sixth win in those circumstances, further mystifying the Penguins.
Evgeni Malkin could do little more than shake his head. In the third period, the two-time NHL scoring champ had the puck on his stick and a wide-open net in front of him. Teammate Blake Comeau drew Steve Mason out of the net after he dragged the puck around defenseman Nick Grossmann.
Michael Del Zotto was the only thing standing in the way of Malkin, a tie game and a possible choking situation avoided.
He hit the post.
The Flyers knew the feeling, the moment bringing back the eerie feeling of when Boston's Brad Marchand dealt the death knell to the Flyers on March 7, a season changed in the blink of an eye.
"It's sure motivation seeing Pittsburgh flipping down in the standings, and beating them again to make their life harder to make the playoffs," Sean Couturier said. "There were a lot of emotions out there, a lot of little playoff plays, little checks after the whistle and stuff like that. Maybe they won't make it, so we'll see."
With three games to play, the Flyers still hold a bit of the Penguins' playoff fortunes in their hands. They can help make a historic collapse complete when they host the Senators on Saturday in the season finale.
"They were doing everything they could to maybe get under our skin, but if anything, it just gets you more into the game when you have people come out at you," Mason said. "They have something to play for and we were happy to take it away from them. Our fate is sealed, but that doesn't mean we can't ruin other people's."
Michael Del Zotto has six points in his last five games. He's netted 22 points in his last 28 games dating to Jan. 17, the same amount as Claude Giroux, who has played five more games in that span . . . Mark Streit (48 points) moved into the top 10 in league scoring among defensemen . . . Jake Voracek (79 points) is two back of Sidney Crosby in the Art Ross Trophy race with three games to play . . . Crosby was held without a point for the fifth time in his last seven games against the Flyers.