For the first time in this series there was playoff hockey. Not to say that the first four games of the series weren’t high intensity and had a lot of different plot lines but there wasn’t that true low scoring one goal playoff game. That was played tonight as there were only five total goals scored and the Penguins came out with one more than the Flyers in a 3-2 win in front of a raucous crowd at the CONSOL Energy Center.
The Penguins were behind the eight ball after the first period of play as they were down 2-1 thanks to a pair of power play goals by the Flyers. The orange and black opened up the scoring with a power play goal from Matt Carle almost 12 minutes into the game which shattered the longest into the game that there was a goal. The Penguins battled back with a power play goal of their own as Steve Sullivan continues to be just a beast on the power play scoring as the Penguins second power play of the period was expiring. Scott Hartnell ended the scoring on a 5-on-3 power play thanks to a terrible penalty by Evgeni Malkin and Craig Adams. The Penguins were able to kill off the second half of that 5-on-3 which is a small miracle that they didn’t give up a power play goal.
The Penguins scored a pair of goals in under four minutes in the second period as Jordan Staal tied up the game with his sixth of playoffs and then Tyler Kennedy continues to earn his pay this year with the game winner halfway through the period. That was all she wrote as the Penguins held the Flyers to only five shots in the second period after giving up only seven in the first period.
The first star of the game far and away was Fleury as he played his best game of the playoffs and became the first goaltender in this series to steal a win. The third period was all Fleury all the time and if he is starting to get his confidence then this gives the series a whole different look. His shining moment came when Tyler Kennedy took a horrid penalty just seven and a half minutes into the third period and MAF made seven saves on that power play and held the Penguins lead. I am not talking about a bunch of outside shots, I am talking about straight up robbery on Danny Briere in front. If the Penguins wanted to have a realistic chance at coming back in this series MAF had to steal a game or two and he stole one tonight. Funny that the Flyers had two goals which were both power play goals and he hasn’t given up a 5-on-5 goal since the third period of game three. Going to need him to be huge on Sunday but if he plays like he did today then the Penguins will have an outstanding shot.
The one guy who isn’t getting enough credit is Jordan Staal. All he has done is scored huge goals all while playing shut down defense at the center position. He now has six goals in the series which means that he leads the entire NHL is goal scoring for the playoffs so far. What a performance.
Sullivan has also gone largely unnoticed in this series but he has been scoring some big goals himself. They might not be go ahead goals but they come on the power play at points where the Penguins need a play. His goal tonight tied up the game at one after the Flyers made it look easy on the power play and just in general he is the unquestioned quarterback of the power play. When he was thrown on the top power play line they started to click and while he might not be the most fluent guy out there he just makes plays and knows what to do. Mad respect for that.
During the regular season I was pretty hard on TK and even probably said that he should have been benched. I was probably right in saying so but I will tell you this, he has earned every single penny of his contract in this playoff series. He got the puck with the score tied in the second period and walked it in about five feet and threw a blister shot on net that beat Ilya Bryzgalov top shelf and it turned out to be the game winner. That was Kennedy’s third goal of the series and he might be the hardest worker of any of the skaters so far this series. Just a huge turnaround.
Defensively the Penguins were much, much better tonight than they have been at any point in the playoffs so far. One huge thing I noticed tonight was that the Penguins were able to get into a lot more of the shooting lanes which resulted in blocking a ton more shots. I haven’t looked at the stats from the first four games but just watching the game tonight it was evident that they were blocking a lot more shots which in turn leads to less stops and rebounds off MAF and created some chances the other way. The third period they started to let up a little bit and it seemed as if the Flyers were getting better looks but overall it is a night and day difference from the first three games of the series. Really fun to watch.
Big ups to everyone that was at the CONSOL tonight. It was great to hear the crowd that loud and I know there was a sense that there really wasn’t that signature win yet in that barn since the Penguins have struggled so mightily in the new building but this was as big of a win as it gets. It was awesome to see all the media guys saying how loud it was and that wasn’t just Pittsburgh media members, it was national media and even Philadelphia guys were talking about it with one of them saying the noise level was as loud as it gets at the Bell Centre. Going in there was a nice movement by the guys at the Pensblog to “remember the Igloo” and I think everyone went to the arena tonight and made it feel like they were in the Igloo. Just an unreal atmosphere.
Maybe the best part of the night was a move by the Penguins media department. Last year when the Penguins moved into the CONSOL they changed out the goal song to Song 2 by Blur and I am not going to lie, I hated it. I thought that song was a good for after a Penguins win but it never seemed like a good goal song. Well, tonight when Sullivan banged in that first goal they went back to the original, Rock and Roll Part II by Gary Glitter. Really amazing song and when the “hey” drops and the crowd screams it with the song it gives you chills. Great move by the Penguins there.
One thing that has to improve for game six is discipline. The Penguins took way too many penalties and put themselves behind the eight ball against a power play that has absolutely owned them this year. The officials let the game go late but if you give the Flyers five or six power play chances they are going to bury them. The PK did a much better job in the second and third period but I would rather not take that chance. A lot of these penalties are dumb ones. TK’s slash was foolish and so were the penalties that Malkin took. They have to be more disciplined.
The game on Sunday will be at NOON in a game six. You have to figure the pressure is now on the Flyers. If I were them I would not want to come back to Pittsburgh for a game seven.
What a feeling.