Pens hold on to win Game 5

Pittsburgh Penguins' Tyler Kennedy celebrates with teammate Jordan Staal after scoring a goal...

Pittsburgh Penguins' Tyler Kennedy celebrates with teammate Jordan Staal after scoring a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers during the second period in Game 5. (Jason Cohn/REUTERS)

Rob Longley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:53 PM ET

PITTSBURGH - It took less than a week for the Penguins to go from Stanley Cup favourites to long shots to clear the first round.

But don't rip up the ticket just yet.

Prompted by a jacked-up Friday night crowd at the Consol Energy Center, the hole is a little less deep for the Pens following a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Suddenly, the task of becoming just the fourth team in NHL history to rally from three games doesn't seem like a longshot.

Through all the sideshows and all the insane scoring that has made this series a must-watch. We may have something even better: a comeback

"We're not even looking at it as where we are in the series," Flyers defenceman Kris Letang said. "We just want to win every period and then every game."

They certainly didn’t win the third period on Friday night and, for that, may have given the Flyers some momentum heading home.

In a series that had lit up the scoreboard at both ends, Marc-Andre Fleury might have been the worst player on the ice through three games.

And "might have" is probably erring on the generous side.

Still, the Penguins players who have won a Stanley Cup with Fleury and saw him regain some of that magic late this season, were hoping it would return in time to avoid a first-round exit for the second consecutive spring.

They also looked within and realized they weren't making it easy on their pal with costly defensive giveaways. That all led to pond-hockey excitement that has been easy on the eyes but not conducive to playoff success.

This time, the teams combined for just five goals, lower by two the previous amount of any game in the series.

"We weren't playing great in front of him and obviously he wasn't playing his best," said Pens centre Jordan Staal, who scored once to give himself a playoff-leading six goals. "Once our team started picking up our game (on Friday), you could see his confidence grow."

For the player they call the Flower that confidence was blooming right in front of a sellout Steel City crowd that responded with a blast of noise not seen since the team vacated the old Igloo of its Stanley Cup years.

In one stretch of a 14-save third period, Fleury made five big saves on a power play and then another in tight off of Scott Hartnell while the penalty killers were still gasping.

"I was trying to stay positive," Letang said of his friend and teammate who had taken so much heat. "Sometimes it looked like the cage was empty and he was just sticking his pad out and making big save after big save.

"It was unbelievable."

The third period certainly was. A two-goal burst in the first half of the middle 20 gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead, but the way this series had gone, was there really much hope that Tyler Kennedy's go-ahead score would stand up as the game winner?

It certainly didn't look like it when the Flyers came out storming. They were facing a Penguins team, after all, that had seen both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin held off the scoresheet and how often is that opportunity going to come knocking?

"It was loud and it was awesome," Staal said of the desperate final 15 minutes.

It will be loud again for Game 6 on Sunday afternoon as well but considerably more hostile for the Penguins. The Flyers may have lost two in a row but they still have a healthy lead in the stretch in what has been the most entertaining of the conference quarter-final match ups.

Can they withstand a Penguins team that found its stride a week late but is still determined to make up for lost time?

"There's a lot of confidence in our group," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "We need to win one hockey game and we're going back to our building."

That may be true and by any legitimate form of handicapping, the Flyers would still be favoured.

But suddenly the team that opened the post-season as the clear 4-1 favourites to win the Cup no longer look false.

Can you bet against them now?

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/longleysunsport


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