Saturday, April 25, 2009

Flyers blow three-goal lead, Penguins close out series

by Bob Herpen
The Phanatic Magazine

Sidney Crosby picked up a pair of goals and Sergei Gonchar netted the deciding score early in the third period as the Pittsburgh Penguins rallied from a three-goal deficit to down the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-3, in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at Wachovia Center.

Ruslan Fedotenko and Mark Eaton provided the other tallies for the Penguins, who won the best-of-seven series four games to two and dismissed their cross- state rivals from the playoffs for the second straight season.

Evgeni Malkin provided a pair of assists for Pittsburgh, which advances to the conference semifinals but will have to wait and see who will be its next opponent.

The outcomes of the yet-to-be decided Capitals-Rangers and Devils-Hurricanes series will eventually determine who the Penguins face in the upcoming round.

Marc-Andre Fleury overcame an early Philadelphia burst but recovered to make 22 saves for the win. He improved to 8-3 over the last two playoff seasons against the orange and black.

Mike Knuble, Joffrey Lupul and Danny Briere scored for the Flyers, who netted the game's first three goals but suffered the crushing loss and failed to advance past the first round for the second time in their last three postseason appearances.

Philly also bowed out in the Eastern quarterfinals back in 2006, a six-game defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres.

Following a 28-save shutout win to keep his club alive in Game 5, Martin Biron was tagged for four goals on 34 shots in defeat.

Only 29 seconds after Briere's tally put the visitors in a three-goal hole, Pittsburgh got on the board as Fedotenko pushed a loose puck through traffic and past Biron's outstretched right pad for a 3-1 game with 4:35 played in the second period.

Eaton then bunted a rebound out of mid-air and in for a one-goal contest at 6:32, and Crosby tied the game with 3:01 remaining when he managed to bat the puck home from the right post after Biron misplayed a shot with his glove.

The beleaguered Flyers netminder had to be sharp to stop Chris Kunitz on a backhander from in close inside the final 30 seconds, finishing with 17 stops despite allowing three scores.

Gonchar then took a feed from Malkin and rifled a shot from the right circle to give the Penguins their first lead of the game, 4-3, at 2:19 of the third period.

Philly saw two good chances later go by the wayside. Mike Richards saw an open net from the left circle but had the puck swept away just prior to the midway point, and Claude Giroux hit the outside of the cage with 8 1/2 minutes remaining.

Lupul was turned away by a quick Fleury pad save with under five minutes left, and Braydon Coburn's deflected point shot from a faceoff win two minutes later found the crook of Fleury's arm.

Biron was pulled for the extra skater with a minute to go, and Crosby hit the empty net with 27.6 seconds on the clock.

The Flyers picked up the game's first goal with 2:12 left in the first period. Richards broke free of a check in the slot and pushed a shot on net. Fleury kicked it back out, but Knuble, trailing the play, lifted a backhander into an open net.

Lupul made it 2-0, hitting the short-side high to Fleury's glove side 51 seconds later. Giroux set up the play by carrying down the left wing before sliding a cross-ice pass for Lupul, who scored his first goal of this postseason.

Simon Gagne fed Briere with a long lead pass, and the latter converted with a wrister from 15 feet out for a power play score and a 3-0 Philadelphia edge 4:06 into the second. That's as good as it got for the home club, which quickly saw their edge disappear.


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