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Pronger wins battle, but Flyers lose Game 1 war

Sunday, 05.30.2010 / 12:46 AM / 2010 Stanley Cup Final - Blackhawks vs. Flyers

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

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Pronger wins battle, but Flyers lose Game 1 war
Chris Pronger won his personal battle with Dustin Byfuglien in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, but the Flyers still lost.
CHICAGO -- Chris Pronger has made a living defending his own end and eating up tons of ice time this spring.

The Philadelphia Flyers defenseman proved that point yet again in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday in his team's 6-5 loss before 22,312 at United Center.

Pronger basically took the ice for every key shift in the game -- especially when 6-foot-4, 257-pound Dustin Byfuglien jumped on the ice for the Hawks. Byfuglien, who entered the game with goals in five-straight games, would log 15:25 minutes on 24 shifts alongside linemates Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Pronger would win that battle too, limiting Byfuglien to 2 shots, no points and a minus-3 rating. Pronger, meanwhile, earned 42 shifts and an incredible 32:21 of ice time -- his second-highest total in 18 postseason games this spring. He also chipped in with two assists, a plus-2 rating, four of Philadelphia's 40 hits and two blocked shots.

When asked to describe his ongoing battle with Byfuglien throughout the game, Pronger just smiled.

"You guys made a lot of that (confrontation), didn't you?" Pronger asked. "And we're going to talk about that again? I don't think we need to -- what did he do?"

When informed of Byfuglien's stat line, Pronger followed up with, "OK good. Next question."

Byfuglien, who did finish with a game-high 10 hits for Chicago, was just happy his team came out on top. The personal war with Pronger, which will certainly continue the rest of this series, didn't matter all too much.

"I just went out there to do my job and work; I know things will happen eventually," he said. "It is what it is. It's going to be a long series and I just have to keep going here."

Certainly, if the Flyers are to compete with the Blackhawks, they'll need to play a stronger defensive game than what they exhibited Saturday night. That was a recurring theme in his post-game commentary.

"A loss is a loss," Pronger said. "We played well offensively, but you don't win in this League if you don't play defense. We got to do a better job in Game 2 of shutting down the slot and the front of the net. They had too many prime-A scoring chances and Chicago is an opportunistic team."

The 6-6, 220-pound Pronger knows the Flyers cannot continue to play goal-for-goal with the Blackhawks. Instead, they need to limit Chicago's opportunities as they did in their five-game elimination of the speedy Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Finals.

"We don't want to give up that many opportunities," Pronger said. "I know they'd probably say they wouldn't want to give up that many opportunities either, but it's something we need to show up for Game 2, that's for sure. Defensively, we gave up too many quality scoring chances and to win in this League, you can't do that."

Chicago, which ranks third with an average of 3.47 goals-per game in the playoffs, fired 32 shots on goaltenders Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher. Boucher replaced Leighton 15:18 into the second after the latter had yielded 5 goals on 20 shots.

The Flyers, meanwhile, have allowed a League-low 2.33 goals-per game this postseason. Chicago is a close second with a 2.65 average.
"You guys made a lot of that (confrontation), didn't you?  And we're going to talk about that again? I don't think we need to -- what did he do?" -- Chris Pronger on his matchup with Dustin Byfuglien

"I think if you watch any of (Chicago's) other series, against San Jose and Vancouver, the Hawks dominated the pace of play and I think they were just getting their legs underneath them in the Nashville series (in the opening round)," Pronger said. "Now, we have to rally the troops and clean things up for Game 2."

The Flyers will look to do that and even up this series Monday in Game 2 at 8 p.m. ET (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).

"Our assessment was we were a little bit just too loose in front of our net," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "We left too many point blank opportunities. We've got to be a little bit better defensively than we were. It was probably a dozen chances for them, but some of them were point blank. We have to tighten it up right in front of our goal."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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