|Evgeni Malkin made the right decision on his second period goal, althought he didn't have time to think about it.
Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien reminded his players on Thursday about the battle level the Philadelphia Flyers have in front of the net. He did it again on Friday morning, telling them that is where the Flyers generate most of their goals.
However, when Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals began Friday night, the Penguins couldn’t match that level and Flyers center Mike Richards scored a pair of goals from within only a few feet of Marc-Andre Fleury.
After yet another reminder between the first and second periods, the message finally got through — and the Penguins were devastatingly good at owning the area in front of Fleury in the second and third periods.
“We were aware of how they scored their goals against Washington and against Montreal, and we mentioned it to the players and worked on it in practice,” Therrien said. “But having not played for a week the competitive level is not quite there. Early in the game it was not quite there. We certainly approached it again with our players (at the first intermission) and I believe they did a great job in the second and third.”
“Let’s stop there right now,” Stevens said in his postgame press conference. “Kimmo’s not in our lineup.”
Instead, Stevens said the Flyers were on the wrong end of the scoreboard Friday night because they “didn’t manage the puck as a group of five on the ice. Our support got too far away.”
Stevens also referenced the Flyers problems with turnovers in Game 1. They were credited with only 10 giveaways, but there seemed to be more than that.
Martin Biron’s gaffe behind the net led to Sidney Crosby’s tying goal in the first period. Evgeni Malkin scored the first of his two goals off a neutral zone turnover. His second goal came after Vaclav Prospal whiffed on a shot attempt, leading to a turnover in the offensive zone.
“You turn pucks over and give up rushes against Crosby and Malkin. That’s a game you can’t play,” Stevens said. “We did that. Every time you get an odd-man rush error — I call it a stressed attack — and it favors them. Those are things we can’t do.
“We turn pucks over in the neutral zone and they come with too much speed. They get you on the rush. That’s the problem in the first period. We didn’t manage the puck.”
He knew it – Petr Sykora’s research paid off early in the first period when he scored the first goal of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Sykora said on VERSUS after Game 1 that he knew Flyers goalie Martin Biron would come out to challenge him, so he figured he would flip sides and go high as Biron took away the low angles.
Sykora did just that, deking quickly to his backhand before lifting the puck into the short side of the goal. Biron was caught too far out of his net to recover on the pretty move.
“I knew he was going to really challenge me, really come out,” Sykora said. “I put it to the backhand and tried to go upstairs. I was really happy when the puck went in.”
Pure power – Malkin said he didn’t have time to think about what he wanted to do when he broke in alone on Biron while shorthanded early in the second period, so he just unleashed a slap shot from about 15 feet out that could have crashed through a brick wall.
The puck whizzed past Biron, giving the Penguins a 4-2 lead 4:50 into the second period.
“It was really a last-second decision,” Malkin said thought a translator. “All of my penalty shots weren’t that great, so in the last second I decided to shoot the puck as hard as I can. I didn’t think about where to shoot it, just as hard as I can.”
Malkin said he never thought about his lack of success in shootouts (he was 0-for-5) this season when he walked in on Biron. So, despite being so close, he shot as hard as he could and hoped it was accurate enough to beat Biron.
Sidney Crosby, for one, thought it was a good idea.
“If I had his shot I’d do the same thing,” Crosby said. “It was a great shot.”
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