Saturday, April 21, 2012

Penguins live to fight another day, send series back to Philadelphia

Special to the Phanatic

Backed by Marc-Andre Fleury, the Pittsburgh Penguins lived to fight another day as they took a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series on Friday night at CONSOL Energy Center.

Fleury, who had recorded a goals-against average near six per game over the first four games,  was stellar in the third period, especially during the Flyers lone power play of the frame, as he stopped 14 shots in the final 20 minutes and finished the game with 24 saves.

 The Penguins now trail this best-of-seven series, 3-2, and they are hoping to become jut the fourth team in NHL history to rally from a 3-0 deficit. Game 6 is set for Sunday at noon in Philadelphia.

Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy each posted a goal and an assist while Steve Sullivan also lit the lamp for the Penguins, who hope to join the 1942 Maple Leafs, 1975 Islanders and 2010 Flyers as the only teams to win a best-of-seven series after dropping the first three games.

"It's just one game at a time and we've been saying that for a while," said Staal. "We'll go into Philly and be confident that we can win and go from there."

Matt Carle and Scott Hartnell each scored their first goal of the playoffs for the Flyers, who received 20 saves from Ilya Bryzgalov in the unexpected defeat.

"We definitely have to look at what we're doing in all areas of the game," said Hartnell. "Our forechecking and neutral zone play, it seems like they're getting too many rushes off them."

The third period was the first scoreless period of this series and that was thanks to Fleury, who was brilliant during a Flyers power play after Kennedy took a slashing call 7:37 in.

Holding a 3-2 lead, Fleury made the lead stand repeatedly during the penalty kill, starting with a quick pad save on a one-timer from Jakub Voracek at the right circle. From nearly the same spot, Jaromir Jagr snapped a shot on net that Fleury stopped and he later made two point-blank rebound chances from Danny Briere before the penalty expired.

"I don't think we were doing anything differently," said Carle. "But when your back is against the wall guys make plays and he was huge for them in the third."

From there, he continued to make the saves, but the Penguins defense, which along with Fluery had allowed 23 goals in the previous four games, kept the Flyers from setting up any pressure and the Pens won just their second game out of nine chances at home against the Flyers since the new arena opened in October of 2010.

"In the third with the penalty kill and late in the game with a lot around the net he stood strong," said Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma about Fluery. "There was some loose pucks and rebounds that he was on. He's the one that kept us in it in the third period."

It was all power-play goals in the first period and the first one went to the Flyers.

With Deryk Engelland in the box for roughing, Matt Read had the puck at the left point and brought it over to the slot before dishing it over to the right point for Carle, who flung a wrist shot that went into the left corner with Briere providing a screen in front at the 11:45 mark.

It was the longest a game had gone scoreless in the series, but just three minutes later the second goal of the game was scored and this one went to the Penguins.

The Pens caught a break as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin collided in the Flyers zone and Philly went the other way on a 3-on-1, but was unable to get a good shot on net. Moments later, a slap pass from Kris Letang in the high slot went to the left circle where Sullivan one-timed it home.

A few minutes later, Malkin took a roughing penalty when he hit Brayden Schenn late and a slashing call was issued to Craig Adams a bit later after he broke Jagr's stick to give the Flyers 18 seconds of a 5-on-3.

Philly wasted little time to take the lead as perimeter passes saw the puck go to the low left side where Briere sent it to the right and Hartnell wristed it in for his first goal of the playoffs with 2:25 to play in the frame.

Fleury made a nice save on a Jagr one-timer less than a minute into the second and the Pens tied the game at the 6:15 mark.

A short 2-on-1 break saw Staal opt to shoot and his wrister from the right circle beat Bryzgalov cleanly for his sixth goal of the playoffs.

Halfway through the frame, the Penguins took their first lead of the game. A pass from the deep right boards by Matt Cooke went to the right circle where Kennedy slapped a shot past Bryzgalov for a 3-2 advantage.

Malkin took an interference call late in the second period, but the Flyers were unable to get anything going and the game went into its second break with the Pens up by one.

Bryzgalov kept his team in the contest about four minutes into the third when he made a nice glove save on a James Neal wrist shot.

Notes: Philadelphia has only let a 3-0 series edge slip away one time, in the 1975 Semifinals against the Islanders, eventually winning a home Game 7 to reach the Stanley Cup Finals...The Orange and Black fell to 7-2 at CONSOL...Jagr picked up an assist on the Carle goal to give him 188 playoff points in his career. He is tied with Joe Sakic and Doug Gilmour as his next point will give him seventh place all-time...The Flyers have scored their past five goals on the power play and now have 11 in the series, which ties their team record for a playoff series set against the Penguins in 1989, a series that went seven games...Staal leads the playoffs in goals while Philadelphia's Claude Giroux, who had one assist in the game, leads the playoffs in points with 11...The Flyers were without defenseman Nicklas Grossman, who was out with an upper- body injury which is believed to be a concussion that he suffered in Game 4. They did get back forward James Van Riemsdyk, who had not played since March 1 after surgery to repair a broken bone in his left foot.
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