Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Staff Writer PITTSBURGH -- Calling someone a role player is a nice way of saying his job is to defend, check, or hit or fight -- and leave the scoring to the professionals.
Arron Asham would fall into the "role player" category. Signed by the Flyers over the summer to add grit and toughness in a fourth-line role, he responded by scoring 8 goals and piling up 155 penalty minutes in 78 regular-season games.
Meanwhile, the Flyers had four 30-goal scorers and a League-high six players with at least 25 goals.
But with their backs to the wall, facing a win-or-go-home situation at a sold-out Mellon Arena, it wasn't the Flyers' skill-rich top forwards who got the game-winning goal. Instead, it was the player with just 1 goal in 27 previous Stanley Cup Playoff games who scored the biggest goal of the season.
Asham took a drop pass from Daniel Carcillo, took one stride inside the Penguins' blue line and ripped a shot. With Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi providing just enough of a screen, the shot seemed to surprise Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, ticking off his glove and finding a home in the back of the net at 6:32 of the second period, starting the Flyers on the way to a 3-0 victory in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.
"He plays limited minutes but he seems to get a couple quality, Grade-A chances every time he plays," Flyers coach John Stevens said of Asham. "Just a great shot. I think that was a big goal for us to get the lead here. We were playing better and then the puck goes in the net from a guy like Ash, I think that really revved our team up."
Martin Biron made 28 saves for his second playoff shutout and first win in six decisions at Mellon Arena. Game 6 is Saturday afternoon at Philadelphia.
So far this series, the Flyers' fourth line of Asham, Carcillo and Jared Ross has 3 goals and 2 assists; in comparison, the second line of Jeff Carter, Scott Hartnell and Joffrey Lupul -- all of whom scored at least 25 goals -- has 2 goals and 4 points.
"We've got some pretty good players on the fourth," Asham said, "Myself, Carcy (Carcillo), Rossy (Ross). We've each scored in the series. Anytime we can chip in here or there with a goal we can, and tonight was a big one."
It certainly got them going in the right direction. The Flyers ended the first period with just five shots, and went a combined 15:09 from midway through the first into the early part of the second without getting a shot on Marc-Andre Fleury. But Asham got his goal not long afterward, and the Flyers finished by outshooting the Penguins 11-5 in the second period.
They continued that roll into the third. Defenseman Matt Carle, who had a pair of assists, intercepted Philippe Boucher's clearing pass and fired a shot on net. The puck bounced to Darroll Powe, then onto Claude Giroux's stick -- and the rookie scored his second playoff goal into an open net at 3:25 of the third period to make it 2-0.
It's interesting to note that the five players who had a hand in the team's first two goals in its biggest game of the season to this point combined for 27 goals with the Flyers this season -- as many as Mike Knuble scored by himself this season -- and 86 points -- two more than Carter, the team leader in points.
"We expect big things from those guys," Stevens said. "We've made Claude Giroux a fixture on our team. He's a fixture on the penalty kill, he plays a regular shift 5-on5, he plays 4-on-4. Matty Carle, for me, I think he's been a terrific pickup for our hockey team. For a guy who's not that big he's really competitive on the puck, he shows no fear. He has calm with the puck all the time, makes a lot of subtle little plays that allow you to get out of your end with possession. Those guys there are a big reason we've had success this year."
But when the season was on the line, it wasn't Carter, Mike Richards or Simon Gagne scoring the most important goals. The Flyers have confidence that those players will score at some key juncture -- like Knuble, whose first goal of the playoffs made it 3-0 with 6:48 remaining -- but knowing that offense can come from anyone is comforting.
"You get your fourth line going, it's a huge goal, huge momentum swing for our side," center Danny Briere said.
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The Flyers put out their three hardest workers in the series -- Darroll Powe, Claude Giroux and Daniel Carcillo -- and it resulted in the game's second goal. Defenseman Matt Carle intercepted Philippe Boucher's clearing pass and fired a shot that Powe tipped over to Giroux, who scored to make it 2-0 early in the third period.
Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn had his best defensive game of the series. In 25:41 of ice time, he had team-highs of six hits and three blocked shots, including a sliding block of a Sidney Crosby attempt down low late in the second.
This one literally wasn't in there. Evgeni Malkin appeared to tie the game, 1-1, at 8:26 of the second when he jumped on the rebound of a Sergei Gonchar blast. The play was reviewed, however, and Malkin was ruled to have kicked the puck in the net. It's the third goal in the series to be reviewed, and the first time the end result went in the Flyers' favor.
In a win-or-go-home game, the Flyers went 15:19 between the shots, a drought that spanned the final 12:38 of the first period and first 2:33 of the second. Then they finished the second outshooting the Penguins, 11-5, and went ahead on Arron Asham's goal.
The Flyers managed to stay alive in the series with a gritty, hard-fought effort that showed they were able to take all the good things they did in Game 4 and carry it over to Game 5. They still have to do it two more times, though.
1 - 0 PHI
2 - 0 PHI
3 - 0 PHI