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Eastern Finals go to a fifth game

Thursday, 05.15.2008 / 11:49 PM / 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Pittsburgh fans will get another chance to see Sidney Crosby and the Penguins take on the Flyers at the Mellon Arena, after Philadelphia's 4-2 win on Thursday.
Watch highlights from the Flyers'  4-2 win 
PHILADELPHIA — Wash those white T-shirts, Penguins fans — you’ll need them Sunday afternoon when your boys return home for a Game 5 they didn’t want to play.

The Philadelphia Flyers staved off elimination for at least another couple of days with their 4-2 victory in front of a raucous capacity crowd of 19,972 at the Wachovia Center on Thursday night.

For the second straight series, the Penguins failed to win Game 4 after owning the first three games. However, in the last round they came back to Mellon Arena and eliminated the New York Rangers with an overtime victory in Game 5.

For two days now the Penguins will have to answer questions about facing adversity while the Flyers will answer questions about how they go about duplicating their Game 4 performance.

Until then, here are some topics to discuss among yourselves.

1. Lead, don’t follow

Heading into Game 4, the Flyers held the lead for all of 87 seconds in this series. No wonder they were down three games to none.

On Thursday they took a 1-0 lead 8:27 into the game when Joffrey Lupul’s slap shot ricocheted off defenseman Hal Gill’s stick and sailed past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. The Flyers added to their lead with two power-play goals before the first intermission.

It was all the offense they’d need.

When the second period started, the Flyers tried to play a conservative game to limit the Penguins’ attempts through the neutral zone. The Penguins worked their 1-2-2 trap to near perfection while holding a 2-1 lead for nearly 40 minutes in Game 3, but they struggled to generate many good scoring chances in the second period of Game 4.

The lead certainly helped Flyers goalie Martin Biron, who looked very much on top of his game, stopping all 25 shots he faced through the first two periods. Biron had allowed 10 goals on 82 shots in this series entering Game 4.

The Penguins made some line changes in the third period — Maxime Talbot took Jarkko Ruutu’s spot on the third line with Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy, and that trio produced a pair of goals to make things interesting.

However, the Flyers hung tough and never once relinquished the lead they grabbed early in the game.

So, it’s simple for the Flyers: Take the lead, win the game.

Right?

2. Something different

For the most part in the playoffs the Penguins have owned the first period. In fact, entering Game 4 they were outscoring the opposition 12-5 in the first 20 minutes and were 6-0 when leading after the first; 9-0 when scoring the first goal.

The Flyers bucked that trend Thursday night. Not only did they score three goals to the Penguins’ zero in the first period, they won 14 of 20 faceoffs and ripped 17 shots on Fleury after totaling just 18 on Tuesday night when they were beaten, 4-1.

The Penguins also gave the Flyers three power plays, and Philadelphia scored two power-play goals. The Flyers were just 1-for-9 on the power play in Games 1-3.

After both Wednesday’s practice and Thursday’s pregame skate, many of the Penguins were talking about how they need to match the Flyers’ desperation — and how the first 10 minutes would be essential to winning again in the Wachovia Center.

They didn’t match Philadelphia’s desperation, and they were outplayed in the first 10 minutes.

3. Where’s Geno?

This may be nitpicking a bit, but it appears the Flyers have found a way to control Evgeni Malkin, something the Senators and Rangers could not do.

The Flyers have been physical with Malkin in the last three games, and as a result he has no goals and just one assist — the secondary assist on Ryan Malone’s insurance goal halfway through the third period of Game 3.

Malkin has been limited to just seven shots on goal in the last three games after scoring two goals on four shots in Game 1. He has been credited with eight giveaways, including four Thursday night, and has won only 35 percent of his faceoffs (13 of 37).

Again, it may only be nitpicking, but it’s no secret that the Penguins need Malkin to be better than he has been, and that means he’ll need to fight through the physical play.

4. Extracurricular activity

Call it frustration if you want, but the bad blood predicted for this series finally showed up Thursday night, especially in the final 23 seconds of the third period when 34 penalty minutes were dished out on 10 penalties.

Ryan Malone and Derian Hatcher tangled along the end boards and were assessed five minutes each for fighting. Malone got a roughing minor and Hatcher was slapped with a holding penalty. Scottie Upshall also got a charging minor.

Just after the ensuing faceoff, Sidney Crosby and Mike Richards, who had been yammering with each other all game, finally squared off in a quick bout that was stopped almost immediately by the officials. They each got two for roughing and two for slashing.

Finally, when the clock wound down and the buzzer sounded, Maxime Talbot went after Jim Dowd and was issued a 10-minute misconduct.

The players will have two days to stew over all of that before the series resumes back in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon. Chances are we haven’t seen the last of the after-whistle shenanigans.

5. Don’t look now…

OK, we’ve got to do it. We’ve got to mention history here because both the Flyers and Dallas Stars still have a chance to accomplish arguably the most difficult task in all of professional sports.

Yes, we know, it’s a long way off, but only three teams among the four major pro sports have ever come back from 3-0 deficits in best of seven series. The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders were the first two before baseball’s Boston Red Sox did it against the New York Yankees in 2004.

The Flyers and Stars still can do it, which is why we don’t have a participant for the Stanley Cup Final yet.

Each won their respective Game 4s by incorporating their own brand of hockey, and, gasp, taking the lead.

The Stars took their first lead of the series on Loui Eriksson’s goal with 23 seconds left in the second period Wednesday. It didn’t take the Flyers nearly as long as they grabbed their first lead since the first period of Game 1 just 8:27 into the game.

This should be an interesting weekend of hockey — on Saturday, the Stars try to stay alive at Joe Louis Arena, where goaltender Marty Turco is 0-9-2, and the next day Philadelphia looks to bring the Battle of Pennsylvania back to the eastern part of the state.

It was 33 years between the Leafs and Islanders accomplishing their historic feats.

Now that we’re in 2008, it begs the question: Is 33 the magic number?

We’ll soon find out.

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com.




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