A pair of pucks, had they bounced a bit differently, might have meant the difference between an early exit and another flight back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 of the Flyers' Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Penguins.
"That's playoff hockey," Flyers captain Mike Richards after Saturday's series-ending 5-3 loss. "You always need a little bit of luck on your side to do well in the playoffs."
The first unfortunate bounce came off the stick of the Penguins' Rob Scuderi. The defenseman was covering Simon Gagne in the Pittsburgh end when Gagne tried to throw a cross-ice pass to a pinching Randy Jones. Scuderi tipped the pass with his stick; Jones' momentum was carrying him away from the puck, which gave the Pens' Matt Cooke a free lane to break out of the zone. Cooke pushed the puck ahead to Ruslan Fedotenko, who passed to Tyler Kennedy. Kennedy's shot over a sliding Kimmo Timonen was stopped by goalie Martin Biron, but the rebound popped up into the air, where defenseman Mark Eaton batted it into the net for the Penguins' second goal.
Ten minutes later, another funny bounce did in the Flyers. Bill Guerin carried the puck wide in the Flyers' zone. He backhanded a centering pass from the left wall, hoping to hit Sidney Crosby cutting down the middle. Instead, the puck hit Timonen's stick right in front of the goal and bounced straight in the air. Biron got a piece of it with his glove, but couldn't control it. Instead, Crosby was able to bat the puck into the net to tie the game 3-3.
"Guerin is trying to get the puck up front, Kimmo is trying to cut it so it doesn't get to Crosby on the back (post) and it deflects really quick up in the air," Biron said. "I got the cuff of the glove on it but never had control of it. As it's up in the air I tried to go in and catch it, but it's a half a second too late. It bounced more toward (Crosby) than me and he got a stick on it."
Instead of crisp passes and glove saves, the Flyers are left to wonder what if the puck had bounced their way.
"They got a couple lucky bounces," Richards said. "After they got the first one and rallied a bit, they took advantage of their chances and we didn't."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.