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First four games of Pens-Flyers series very unique

by Dan Rosen /

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Penguins and Flyers have gone all 1980s on these Stanley Cup Playoffs, and understanding why we're seeing Oilers-style fire wagon hockey is harder than finding a puck in the back of the net.

"I have no clue," Sidney Crosby was saying after practice in Pittsburgh. "There is no really good explanation. There is a lot of skill and depth on both teams, but there's no real explanation. I don't think anyone can explain it."

There have been 45 goals scored so far in this series. That's a new NHL record for offense through the first four games of a playoff series.

Philadelphia has a 23-22 edge in goals, but a 3-1 lead in the series with Game 5 set for Friday at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

"Am I surprised?" Flyers forward Scott Hartnell asked rhetorically. "Yeah, it's usually tight checking, defense, all that kind of stuff in the playoffs. But 8-5, 8-4, 10-3 -- the scores in these games are ridiculous. I don't know what is going on."

"Am I surprised?. Yeah, it's usually tight checking, defense, all that kind of stuff in the playoffs. But 8-5, 8-4, 10-3 -- the scores in these games are ridiculous. I don't know what is going on." -- Flyers forward Scott Hartnell

Hartnell added that the key to the Flyers closing out the series is to "play those 2-1 games, those tight-checking games."

Good luck.

"It's a weird series," Flyers defenseman Matt Carle told "It was 9-3 (going into the third period of Game 4), but again, you never know what can happen."

At 9-3? Even that seems to be a stretch, but you get Carle's point.

Anything can happen. Heck, anything already has happened.

"You look at the two teams, they're the two highest-scoring teams in the regular season," Flyers center Danny Briere said. "That doesn't explain why for all these goals ... but look at the two teams. It makes for a lot of fireworks."

Yes, the Flyers and Penguins were the two highest-scoring teams in the NHL during the regular season, averaging a combined 6.50 goals per game.

They're averaging 11.25 goals per game in this series.

"It's a nightmare for the coaches," Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said.

Pittsburgh jumped to a 3-0 lead in Game 1, but gave it all back and lost 4-3 in overtime. That was low scoring.

The Flyers won Games 2 and 3 by a combined 16-9. They scored eight goals in each game.

Pittsburgh did two better in Game 3, winning 10-3 at Wells Fargo Center to stave off elimination. The Flyers had a 3-2 lead with four minutes to go in the first period, but the Penguins scored twice before the intermission, five times in the second period and once early in the third.

The Penguins even were playing without a 40-goal scorer, the suspended James Neal.

"I don't have a lot of explanation for the dynamic on the ice," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Looking at the clock [in Game 4], it is 3-2 and we still have about four minutes to go in the first period. Then it ends up 4-3 in the first period. You don't know how many goals it's going to take to win at that point in time. It feels strange for a playoff game and a playoff series."


Pens stay alive with 10-3 win in Game 4

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer
Jordan Staal recorded a hat trick late in a wild second period, Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists and Evgeni Malkin tallied his first two goals of the series as the Penguins avoided elimination with a 10-3 rout of the Flyers in Game 4. READ MORE ›

Strange is one way of putting it.

"You never really feel completely safe in this series," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said.

The feeling was mutual in the Flyers' locker room after practice Thursday.

"It seems like every game has had a little bit of weirdness to it," Hartnell said.

"They all have their stories," Briere said, "but this is completely off of what you would normally expect. I think that's what makes it interesting and a good series to follow, as well."

The flip side to all the goals is the goaltending. While eight of the top nine point-scorers in these playoffs are playing in this series, so, too, are the four goalies with the lowest save percentage and highest goals-against average.

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury gave up three goals on 25 shots in Game 4 and boosted his save percentage to .817 from .798. He also lowered his goals-against average to 5.43; it was at 6.34 after three games.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia's Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky didn't help themselves at all Wednesday.

Bryzgalov, who was pulled 3:07 into the second period of Game 4, now has a 4.95 GAA and .844 save percentage. Bobrovsky, who saw his first action of the series Wednesday, played just under 37 minutes and finished the game with an 8.11 GAA and .722 save percentage. Both goalies allowed five goals on 18 shots.

"Last game especially, every time you look on the ice you seemed to have an odd-man break, a breakdown in front of our net, or they would be on the power play," Hartnell said. "It was definitely a weird one to be a part of. It was tough to shake it off."

The special-teams play on both sides also has been pretty crazy. In fact, there have been more special-teams goals scored by the Flyers and Penguins (19) than there have been total goals scored in six of the seven other series.

The Flyers are 60.0 percent on the power play (9-for-15), and they also have three shorthanded goals. That means nearly half their goals in the series have been scored on special teams.

The Penguins are 7-for-21 on the power play, so almost a third of their goals have been scored on special teams. The only thing that's normal is they do not have a shorthanded goal. Neither do 14 other teams in the playoffs.

"Special teams have really kind of blown it up in this series as a big factor in each game," Bylsma said. "The number of special-teams goals has been off the charts. But yeah, I do anticipate being in games where it's tighter, more playoff-type of hockey. It just hasn't gotten there yet. After the first period [Wednesday], you're kind of shaking your head."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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