Friday, April 13, 2012

Two for the ages: Another comeback victory sends Flyers over Penguins

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

A decade and a half ago, a popular series of commercials urged Bud Light drinkers to, uh, beware the Penguins.

If there were any lingering thoughts the top scoring team in the East could strike fear into anyone's hearts and wake up the echoes of that free-wheeling period, they may have been put to rest for good.

Sean Couturier's first three career playoff goals, the final one coming with 1:49 left in regulation, helped the Philadelphia Flyers post an 8-5 comeback victory over Pittsburgh in Game 2 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal from CONSOL Energy Center.

Couturier's hat trick was the first for the franchise in the postseason since Keith Primeau in May of 2004 against Toronto, and the first by a rookie since Andy Delmore turned the trick in May of 2000 against the Pens.

Claude Giroux totaled a single-season franchise-best six points on three goals and three helpers for the Flyers, who took a 2-0 series edge with Game 3 scheduled for Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia.

"I don't know how many more times we can keep making comebacks like this. We gotta find a way to have a better start," said Giroux of the Orange and Black, who have outscored the opposition 11-2 from the first period on thus far. "We can't keep going down so early. It's unacceptable, everybody knows it. And though we're going home, it'll be a different story. We don't know what to expect, but it'll be a big rush."

Jaromir Jagr haunted his old club with the game-winning tally and ex-Penguin Max Talbot added a short-handed score in the first period.

Ilya Bryzgalov picked up the win despite allowing five goals on 28 shots, but Philadelphia seized control in the set thanks to their second improbable comeback in the last 48 hours.

Chris Kunitz scored twice, while Sidney Crosby, Tyler Kennedy and Paul Martin tallied once for the Penguins, who wasted a 3-1 first-period lead. Marc-Andre Fleury was dented for seven scores on 30 shots in the setback as Pittsburgh failed to hold down another early lead in front of a record crowd of 18,626.

"We're down 0-2," said a stammering Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma."Crazy situations where you give up leads and them coming back...it was a back-and-forth game, and the bottom line is they've won both. They're difficult losses, no question. But right now, we'll have to put away this one and get that first win in Philly."

Jagr put the Flyers on top to stay at the 9:13 mark of the final period, firing a low turnaround wrister from the slot which curled inside the left post. Defenseman Pavel Kubina -- a healthy scratch in Game 1 -- unleashed the original shot, which kicked out right to the 40-year-old star.

Couturier capped his trifecta as the clock ticked under two minutes left, tapping in a Giroux feed from the left side to complete a 2-on-1 rush.

Giroux hit the empty net in the final seconds with a Couturier assist.

"I think when you play good defense you win games. It hasn't happened yet. It didn't happen tonight," mused Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette through pursed lips in the postgame. "I think you have to take into consideration we're playing the highest-scoring team in the league and it's a little harder to defend. Certainly we want to play better."

It took just 15 seconds for Crosby to hit the scoreboard again, finishing off a give-and-go from Steve Sullivan with a successful shot from the right side.

That set a new Philly franchise record for quickest goal allowed from the start of a postseason contest, originally set on April 11, 1971 when Chicago's Jim Pappin lit the lamp 21 seconds into a 6-2 Blackhawks win in Game 4 of a quarterfinal series.

In addition, it tied a Penguins franchise record for fastest goal scored, after Greg Malone did so at St. Louis on April 8, 1981 in Game 1 of a first-round contest.

Kunitz redirected a James Neal shot through the crook of Bryzgalov's arm on a power play at 9:27 for a 2-0 game, then Kris Letang had a prime opportunity to make it a three-goal margin staring at an open net with 7:37 remaining, but Bryzgalov robbed him with the glove from the right side.

Seconds later, Giroux was foiled on a shorthanded breakaway, but Talbot trailed the play and flipped the puck into an open cage.

But the Pens hit intermission up 3-1 after Martin pumped one home from the
right wing inside the final 18 seconds of the period.

The Flyers cut their deficit to one again, this time on a power play, as Jakub Voracek hit Giroux for a shot through traffic at the inner edge of the right circle at 5:11 of the second.

Fleury came up with a huge save on a Talbot break two minutes later, but he was beaten by Giroux just 11 seconds into an interference penalty to Brayden Schenn for a 3-3 game at 11:04.

However, only six seconds later, Kunitz put the Pens back on top when he flicked a Neal rebound into an open net.

The visitors kept plugging away and tied it with 2.8 seconds remaining as Couturier slammed home a Braydon Coburn rebound from the left side.

"He's only 19, but he plays like he's 28," Giroux said of his fellow French-Canadian.

Kennedy slid a backhander through Bryzgalov's pads at 1:04 of the third to give the hosts a 5-4 advantage. But a bad giveaway deep in the Pittsburgh zone resulted in Couturier beating Fleury from in front 17 seconds later.

"We need to limit our mistakes, that's really what it comes down to," Crosby said. "The mistakes we've made have ended up in our net."

Notes: Friday marked the first time in Flyers history that two players recorded a hat
trick in the same game...The victory marks just the second time in Flyers history they have won the first two games of a playoff series on the road, after doing so in an Eastern Conference semifinal against Buffalo in 1997 -- eventually won in five games...Primeau's three-goal effort came in a 7-2 win in a home Game 5 of an Eastern semifinal...Delmore also did it in a home Game 5 of an Eastern semifinal, a 6-3 triumph...Philly improved to 7-1 all-time in the Pens' new arena...Neal, Pascal Dupuis and Evgeni Malkin each posted two assists for Pittsburgh...It was the fourth time in the last 22 years that two players from the same team recorded hat tricks in one postseason contest...Couturier tied a rookie playoff record with four points, originally set by Peter Zezel on April 13, 1985 in a 6-5 win over the Rangers in Game 3 of the Patrick Division Semifinals...Tomas Sandstrom and Tony Granato did it for the Kings in 1990, Mario Lemieux and Jagr did it in 1996 for the Penguins, and Jason Pominville and J.P. Dumont turned the trick for the Sabres in 2006...The last time the orange and black registered two short-handed tallies in one playoff game was April 26, 1997, when Rod Brind'Amour netted both on the same Pens power play in the first period of a series-clinching 6-3 in in Game 5 of that East quarterfinal.
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