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Crosby: Flyers bring out worst in Penguins

Monday, 04.02.2012 / 5:29 PM / NHL Insider

By Alan Robinson - NHL.com Correspondent

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Crosby: Flyers bring out worst in Penguins
The Penguins and Flyers may bring out the worst in each other, but their battles make for captivating hockey -- and it appears they're headed for a best-of-seven, first-round playoff matchup.


PITTSBURGH -- As they wind down their 100 point-plus seasons, the Flyers and Penguins already have established themselves as two of the NHL's most dominant teams. But while they share a state and the same passionate desire to raise the Stanley Cup, they don't have much else in common.
 
Only a couple of weeks after the Penguins were rolling during an 11-game winning streak that created plenty of Pittsburgh-is-the-Cup-favorite buzz, the Flyers have twice rallied from two goals down to beat them.
 

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Philadelphia won 3-2 in the last second of overtime March 18 to end that winning streak, then marched into Consol Energy Center on Sunday to score five straight goals and manhandle the Penguins 6-4 on their own ice in a heated, dispute-filled game.
 
Now, with as many as eight more Flyers-Penguins matchups on the horizon over the next three weeks, the question is whether the balance of power in Pennsylvania is shifting just as the Stanley Cup Playoffs grow near.
 
The Flyers own a 4-1 edge against the Penguins this season and have won eight of the last 11. They also are 5-0 over the last two seasons in Consol, which isn't proving to be nearly as intimidating or fearsome to them as the Civic Arena was, according to Flyers forward Scott Hartnell.
 
During their final three seasons at that now-demolished arena, the Penguins twice eliminated the Flyers in the playoffs. So much for that advantage.
 
"I'm sure they're not intimidated at all by the way we play," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Monday, effectively agreeing with Hartnell. "They've had that success. It doesn't seem like we've been able to play the way we need to have success."
 
Neither side must wait long for a rematch. The teams meet again Saturday at Consol in a game that could decide home-ice advantage for a now likely Flyers-Penguins first-round series, though both teams have two games remaining before then.
 
The Flyers' latest win was still generating plenty of talk Monday on both sides of the Commonwealth, and for good reason.
 
That game wound down with the Flyers' Brayden Schenn whacking Sidney Crosby in the back as both skated to their benches -- not long after Crosby swung his stick at Schenn. With Arron Asham and Zac Rinaldo skirmishing. With Joe Vitale leveling the Flyers' Danny Briere with a hard hit at mid-ice, after Vitale put defenseman Nicklas Grossmann out of the game with an earlier hit. 
 
And, to top it off, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette climbed onto the dasher boards to scream at Bylsma for putting some of his hardest hitters on the ice late in the game, a move he later called "gutless."
 
Of course, it's not like Flyers and Penguins haven't uttered such words at each other before.
 
"We don't like each other," Crosby said. "You can dissect it all you want, but the fact is we don't like each other."
 
And the Flyers and Penguins apparently will have plenty more times to work themselves up into a heated state of emotion over the next three weeks. 
 
"We don't like each other. You can dissect it all you want, but the fact is we don't like each other" -- Penguins' captain Sidney Crosby
"Let's be honest," Crosby said. "Both teams bring out a lot of bad things in each other. You can sit there and put a microscope on every slash that goes on out there. The fact is both teams do it. … That's going to happen when these teams play each other. I know that's probably the most hacks I've given out personally in a long time. So they seem to bring out the worst in me, too."
 
What frustrates the Penguins is that the game Sunday started out so well for them, with Steve Sullivan and James Neal scoring in the first five minutes. After that, the Penguins seemed intent on making it 3-0, 4-0, 5-0, and they became careless with the puck, leading to turnovers and a shift in momentum that dramatically altered the game and visibly frustrated them.
 
As defenseman Brooks Orpik said, they simply forget that "games can be won 2-0."
 
"That's certainly not our game, so we have to stay away from it," Crosby said. "It's useless for us to get caught up in it. We're a much better team when we just play. It's something we will try to stay away from."
 
Home ice against the Flyers hasn't been any advantage at all to the Penguins, but they probably prefer that to the alternative -- playing as many as four games in Philadelphia. That's why Pittsburgh's games Tuesday at Boston and at home Thursday against the Rangers, and Philadelphia's home games Tuesday against the Rangers and Thursday against the Sabres could prove just as important at the rematch Saturday.
 
The Penguins, according to goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, must get back to playing the way they did during their winning streak -- with a balance of aggressiveness and responsibility -- rather than with the carelessness they displayed while dropping four of their last six.
 
"We need to go out and play the way we can in our system," Fleury said. "The way the coach wants us to play for 60 minutes every night. We need to get back on track with that."
 
Especially with Philadelphia waiting.
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