PHI Leads Series 3 - 0

Flyers outmuscle Pens, take 3-0 series lead

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:50 AM

PHILADELPHIA -- Goals, fights, raised emotions, more than three dozen penalties, and 20,000 orange-clad fans chanting highlighted a wild Sunday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center. The Battle of Pennsylvania has never been like this; never this fierce, never this intense.

The latest installment might also be over Wednesday.

Philadelphia is one game away from a sweep following its 8-4 victory over Pittsburgh in Game 3, one that included 158 penalty minutes on 38 penalties. There was a match penalty assessed to Arron Asham, game misconducts given to Kris Letang, Kimmo Timonen and Craig Adams, and four players received 10-minute misconducts in the last five minutes of the third period.

There were also three fights that highlighted a pair of melees, one in the first and another late in the third.

Game 4 is Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS2), and if the Penguins are going to survive and bring the series back to Pittsburgh, they will have to find a way to stay composed and stop what appears to be an unstoppable Flyers offense.

The Flyers have scored 20 goals in this series -- more than enough to make up for the 12 that goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has given up. They've even won the first three games of the series despite falling into a hole each time.

"I thought the first two games in Pittsburgh were crazy, but this one was even wilder," Flyers center Danny Briere said. "Once again, coming out on top is a really good feeling."

Jordan Staal scored 3:52 into the first period Sunday, but the Flyers responded and had a 4-2 lead after a penalty-filled first period and a 6-4 advantage after the second.

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma made the dramatic change to backup goalie Brent Johnson to start the third period, but it took Claude Giroux all of 27 seconds to score and give the Flyers a 7-4 lead. Giroux's goal gave him a Gordie Howe hat trick in Game 3 after he had six points in Game 2.

Maxime Talbot scored his second goal of the game late in the third period, shortly after the second melee of the afternoon that resulted in 13 penalties for 64 minutes.

"That's an area of the game we want to stay away from," Bylsma said. "We don't want to be involved in those situations against this team. We want to stay whistle-to-whistle, minimize the number of penalties in the game and not create those situations. But, emotions are high and you saw on numerous times tonight it spill over for both teams."

Philadelphia got its first six goals against a shell-shocked Marc-Andre Fleury, who is now 0-6 and has allowed 26 goals in his last six playoff appearances dating back to Game 4 against Tampa Bay last season, when he was also pulled by Bylsma. Fleury has allowed 17 goals on 84 shots in eight periods against the Flyers this postseason.

"I know Marc-Andre is going to be the guy in our net for the next four games," Bylsma said.

The Penguins likely won't be able to extend the series beyond Wednesday if they continue to get absolutely pounded in the special teams' game. The Flyers on Sunday scored another shorthanded goal (Talbot, 6:44 into the first period) and three power-play goals (Briere, Matt Read, and Wayne Simmonds), including two in the second period to steal away any momentum the Penguins might have been trying to develop.

In the series so far Philadelphia has an 9-3 advantage in special teams, including five power play goals and three shorthanded goals. The Flyers' power play is 6-for-10.

"We said at the beginning special teams and discipline were going to be two key factors," Briere said. "So far our power play has been responding and our penalty kill has been excellent."

While all the fighting and penalties will likely be the main story to come out of Game 3, the Flyers won because once again they showed remarkable resiliency -- except this time they showed it when they were leading.

Philadelphia had to come from behind to win Games 1 and 2, but it was able to fend off the Penguins in Game 3 by rebounding each time it appeared momentum was going to shift to the visitors' side in the second period.

Not long after James Neal's second goal of the game cut the Flyers lead down to 4-3 at the 10:31 mark of the second period, Chris Kunitz was called for tripping Eric Wellwood. The Flyers worked patiently and Read wound up with his second goal of the game, smashing a one-timer past Fleury off a dazzling cross-zone pass from Jaromir Jagr.

Exactly 1:42 after Staal scored his second of the game, Kunitz slashed Braydon Coburn and gave Philadelphia another power play. Coburn sprung Simmonds on a breakaway and he used a backhand deke to beat Fleury and give the Flyers a 6-4 lead with 45.8 seconds left in the second period.

"Things are going to happen out there that you don't like, but when they keep countering and coming back on us and scoring on us when we got the momentum it's tough to keep going," Neal said.

Neal was clearly one of the more angry Penguins. He took out some of his frustrations on Sean Couturier with 5:20 left in the third period.

Neal darted across the zone and crushed Couturier, who had already delivered a pass and never saw the Penguins forward coming. Couturier stayed down for a while, and he needed help into the dressing room.

Couturier said he was fine, but his teammates took exception to the hit.

"The puck wasn't even close, nowhere close," Jagr said. "I thought it was kind of dirty play."

The Flyers had a 4-2 lead after 20 minutes thanks to Briere's two goals, Talbot's shorthanded goal and Read's first of the game.

However, the score was almost an afterthought considering all the nastiness that came bubbling to the core. The teams combined for 72 penalty minutes on 18 penalties.

Sidney Crosby set off a firestorm of events at the 12:02 mark -- just 17 seconds after Briere scored to make it 3-1 Philadelphia -- when he twice whacked at Bryzgalov's glove after the Flyers goalie froze the puck at the right post. Giroux took immediate offense to it and went after Crosby.

It didn't end there.

As Jakub Voracek went to pick up his glove, Crosby knocked it away from him and then engaged with Timonen. Giroux jumped in and he and Crosby fought. Away from that, Letang and Timonen dropped the gloves for their own bout.

Timonen and Letang were both assessed fighting majors and game misconducts per Rule 46.7, which is supposed to prevent fights from happening after the original altercation has started. Timonen also got a minor for slashing.

"I don't have to sit here and explain why I pushed a glove away," Crosby said defiantly. "They're doing a lot of things out there, too. You know what, we don't like each other. Was I going to sit there and pick up his glove for him? What was I supposed to do?"

Barely two minutes after all of that was sorted out, Asham was kicked out of the game after receiving a match penalty for jumping Flyers rookie Brayden Schenn after Schenn hit Paul Martin along the half-wall in the Penguins zone. Schenn received a minor for charging Martin.

According to the NHL Rulebook (Rule 21.2), in addition to the match penalty Asham is automatically suspended until the commissioner rules on the issue. While the rulebook refers to the commissioner, the decision on any further discipline for Asham will be handled by the Department of Player Safety.

"I didn't expect it, that's for sure," Schenn said. "After the hit I thought it was clean, but he just came flying off after the cross-check. That's just his temper rising."

The Penguins' tempers are flaring. The Flyers will try to connect with the knockout punch Wednesday.

"Well, that is the goal now," Briere said. "We don't want to let them hang around and get some confidence."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl
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