Thursday, April 19, 2012

Deja vu all over again

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

Last night's 10-3 pasting at the hands of the resurgent Penguins brought to mind the last -- and only other -- time the Philadelphia Flyers allowed double digits in a playoff game.

April 25, 1989, Patrick Division Finals Game 5 at the Igloo in Pittsburgh. Two days earlier, Mario Lemieux was the subject of a high hit that left his neck so sore he could only move it to one side without pain. Philly won that one to tie the series at two games apiece, and there was some doubt that Lemieux would play in the pivotal contest.

He put those questions to rest before seven minutes were played:



And in the post-game, courtesy of Channel 57 and Bill Clement, the superstar center tries to explain how his NHL record performance came forth:



In that game, a 10-7 victory, the hosts were ahead 6-1 after one period thanks to four Lemieux tallies, then went up 9-3 at intermission thanks to more Mario magic and the talents of Rob Brown. Down by six, the fighting spirit of the Orange and Black finally reared its head:



No, Paul Steigerwald, you're not supposed to do your trademark "windmill" celebration so close to a player with a volcanic temper like Ron Hextall when you're working on a butt-kicking. It's called class.

Unlike that Tuesday evening 23 years ago, this year's Flyers club didn't resort to the same kind of tactics when facing a monster six-goal deficit. Being at home, having the atmosphere completely deflated, and holding a 3-0 series advantage likely threw a damper on any player getting all fought up.

It was disturbing from this standpoint: in the third period of the 1989 tilt, the above scrums galvanized Paul Holmgren's club into a 21-shot, four-goal third period. It was enough of a scare once the gap was closed to 9-7 for Pens head coach Gene Ubriaco to leave Lemieux out on the ice for most of the final two minutes in regulation -- allowing him the chance to share in league lore.

But on Wednesday, there was no such collective sweat and strain. Only Zac Rinaldo doing what he does best:



Rinaldo's actions seemed perfunctory, tacked on, unnecessary given the circumstances. The Flyers need to focus and their every action from now until the fourth game is won must be taken to push the Penguins right out the exit.

In any case, after the Blitz from #66, Philadelphia went home two days later and posted a convincing victory to force a Game 7. Incredibly, that game was won on a Saturday night thanks to 39 saves from backup Ken Wregget after Hextall was ruled out with a torn groin.

As Peter Laviolette said to counteract Dan Bylsma's mantra: we have to win one game, they have to win three. Time, the odds and history are on their side.
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