Flyers overwhelm Pens, move on with Game 6 win
Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 3:02 PM
Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior WriterPHILADELPHIA
-- There will not be a Game 7. Flyers center Claude Giroux
and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov
made sure of it Sunday afternoon.
Giroux blasted Sidney Crosby
and scored a goal on the first shift of the game to set the tone at Wells Fargo Center. He finished with three points and Bryzgalov made 30 saves in his best performance of the playoffs to help Philadelphia become the first team to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a 5-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins
The Flyers now have to wait until all of the remaining Eastern Conference playoff series are finished to find out their opponent.
"All teams are good, but there's something about Pittsburgh, their history recently and probably being favorites in a lot of people's minds, to be able to play the way our group did and to be able to move on I think speaks volumes about our group," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "I think it's real satisfying to be able to move on against that team. A lot of people picked them, so we were underdogs and went out and did the things we had to do."
The Penguins twice fought off elimination after falling behind in the series 3-0 but failed in their attempt to become the fourth team since 2010 to force a Game 7 after losing the first three games of the series.
Giroux was a big reason why. Not only did he start the game Sunday like he was shot out of a cannon, leveling Crosby six seconds in and giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead 26 seconds later, but he finished the series with 14 points -- all scored over the final five games.
He had six points in Game 2, two each in Games 3 and 4, one in Game 5 and three more in a virtuoso Game 6 performance that started with him going to Laviolette and asking to be in the starting lineup. According to Danny Briere
, Giroux also came up to him 10 seconds before the opening faceoff and said, "watch the first shift."
added that Giroux said something similar to him as well.
"When the best player in the world comes up to you and says, 'I don't know who you plan on starting tonight, but I want that first shift,'" Laviolette said, "that says everything you need to know about Claude Giroux
The Flyers' power play was again deadly, scoring on its first opportunity of the game to make it 2-0 with 6:59 left.
Giroux's shot through traffic got to the net and stayed underneath Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
(18 saves). Pittsburgh forward Joe Vitale
tried to whack it out of the blue paint, but Hartnell came diving in to knock the puck over the goal line to give the Flyers their 12th power-play goal of the playoffs, a franchise record for a single series.
The Flyers finshed 12-for-23 on the power play in the series. They scored 11 power-play goals against Pittsburgh in the 1989 Patrick Division Finals.
"Even if you've given up one, you can get a big penalty kill and it can be the difference in a game," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "I think that was a big thing about this series, we did not get that penalty kill."
Bryzgalov was finally a difference-maker Sunday. He stopped 30 of 31 shots after giving up 20 goals on 132 shots through the first five games of the series.
The only time he was beaten was when Evgeni Malkin
ripped a shot from the right circle past him in the second period for a power-play goal. However, Briere erased it 36 seconds later when his shot dribbled through Fleury's legs and crossed the goal line before it was swiped back out.
Briere's goal, which made it 4-1 Flyers with 10:50 to play in the second period, was confirmed by video review.
"Bryz was simply amazing," Briere said. "He was focused from the start. Looking at him in the room, his preparation, you could tell, he was in a zone. There's something special in his eyes today. And to see him play, he was composed. He was sure of himself. It's fun to see him that way."
After authoring a superstar performance in Game 5, Fleury couldn't match Bryzgalov's bounce-back effort in Game 6.
He was beaten on the Giroux slap shot 32 seconds into the game. Fleury also gave up two goals on dribbling pucks that squeezed underneath him, and he couldn't stop a long-range slapper from Flyers rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson
5:25 into the second period.
Gustafsson's shot, which gave Philadelphia a 3-0 lead, might have been deflected slightly by Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek
, but Fleury was statuesque and never reacted as the puck sailed past him and into the net.
"It is tough, especially with these guys (the Flyers), they've always been our good rivals," Fleury said. "It's definitely frustrating to be losing this one."
Philadelphia and Pittsburgh finished the wild and record-setting Battle of Pennsylvania with a combined 56 goals for an average of 9.33 per game. There were 24 goals scored on special teams with the power plays combining to go 21-for-52. The Flyers also scored three shorthanded goals.
It took until Sunday for the team that scored the first goal to actually win the game. That's why the Penguins said they were not deflated by Giroux's quick goal.
"To this point, scoring the first goal hadn't been an indicator in the first five games. I didn't sense a bend or a break in the team," Bylsma said. "In this series I didn't sense that from our team at all. I still think we battled after that goal and even after giving their power play a goal there to get down 2-0. I still sensed our team had the resiliency to come back in that game."
The Flyers, though, would not bend. They played their best defensive game of the series and blocked 40 shots after blocking only 10 in Game 5.
Gustafsson led the way with seven blocks. Andreas Lilja
, Braydon Coburn
and Matt Carle
were all credited with six. Fourteen of the Flyers' 18 skaters had at least one blocked shot.
"I'm not going to talk about who was injured and who's battling through a lot, but I can tell you there's a lot of guys that paid a huge price today," Briere said. "It was one of those wins where I've probably been the most proud of all my teammates. Sometimes you win a game where you have five, six, seven guys that really go above and beyond the call of duty, but today I can't even think of one guy that didn't do that. That makes me proud to be on that team."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl