Flyers-Pengiuns a power struggle
CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
|Penguins forward Sidney Crosby scores on Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov during Game 2 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Penn., April 13, 2012. (JASON COHN/Reuters)
PITTSBURGH - Now, in this impossibly entertaining series -- c’mon, hat tricks by both Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers Friday night? -- we get to see what there is in the heart of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Penguins are down 2-0 to the Flyers after Friday night’s 8-5 loss, a crazy night where the performances of Couturier and Giroux (six points) overshadowed a gutsy coaching move by Penguins bench boss Dan Bylsma, who took the game’s best player off the club’s first power play unit.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said after the game he couldn’t remember the last time he was healthy and not on his team’s first unit with the man advantage.
“No, but it doesn’t really matter to be honest with you. I’ve got to make sure I’m doing my part no matter what that is. Those guys have all done a great job all year and proven they’re really good in every position. It doesn’t matter where I play,” Crosby said.
Anybody remember when a team's best player wasn't on the first unit of the power play?
Bylsma's move had mixed results.
There were four goals scored when the tweaked Penguins power play was on the ice Friday night, which sounds like a wonderful breakthrough after the units were skunked 0-3 in Game 1.
Problem was, the Penguins scored two with the man advantage and gave up two to the Flyers in a game that was a living, breath-taking example of how great this game can be when coaches have their players create rather than destroy.
Unfortunately for the Penguins, the clever counterattacks shorthanded were a huge step by the Flyers in their win and sweep of the opening two games here as this series -- which was predicted to be the best of the opening round -- has lived up to the hype.
For these two teams, it seems, defence is a four letter word, and it’s not work.
God love ’em for that.
After the Penguins came up empty on the power play in Game 1, Bylsma shuffled his alignments, dropping Crosby onto the second unit. He put forward Steve Sullivan on the point with Kris Letang and had James Neal lurking in the high slot, Art Ross Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin along the wall and Chris Kunitz in front of the net on the first unit.
The Penguins made it 2-0 10 minutes into the first period on the heels of Crosby’s goal 15 seconds into the game.
When Crosby and defenceman Paul Martin got their wires crossed at the Philly blue line during another Penguins power play shortly thereafter, ex-Penguin forward Max Talbot finished off a breakaway by Giroux, putting the rebound in the empty net.
The Flyers got another shorty -- the first time they’ve had two in a playoff game since April, 1997 -- to tie it 3-3 and it was a perfect example of what can happen when a coach opts to use a forward on the point. Sullivan had to defend on the rush, got eliminated from the play in the left wing circle and this time Giroux wound up scoring from Talbot at 11:04 of the second to bring the Flyers back from a 3-1 deficit.
Just six seconds after Giroux’ goal, Kunitz got his second of the night on the power play.
Bottom line: the Flyers outscored the Penguins 3-2 on special teams (the Flyers were 1-for-2 on the power play).
Those short-handed goals staggered the Penguins.
“They get a couple of goals when they’re penalty killing and it takes a little wind out of our sails and the momentum shifts,” Neal said. “It’s tough. We’ve got to find a way to win.”
That will have to be in Philly, starting Sunday afternoon.
“I think it’s a building that brings out the best in all of us. It’s always an intense and emotional game there and given the situation we’re in,” Crosby said, “we should be a desperate hockey team going in there.”