PHILADELPHIA -- They were the popular choice among the prognosticators to win the Stanley Cup, but the Pittsburgh Penguins are going home empty-handed and deflated after a six-game series loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
"Right now it is a shock, yeah," Pascal Dupuis said following the 5-1 series-clinching loss Sunday at Wells Fargo Center. "We didn't play the right way to win so we didn't win."
Here are the five biggest reasons why the Penguins couldn't make good on the lofty expectations that were placed on them after Sidney Crosby returned to the lineup on March 15:
1. PK problems never went away
The Penguins had the third-ranked penalty kill during the regular season. It was their biggest problem against the Flyers.
PENGUINS VS. FLYERS
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By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer The Flyers had dropped two straight games after taking a 3-0 series lead, but they closed the door on Pittsburgh in Game 6. READ MORE ›
Philadelphia broke a franchise record for most power-play goals in a playoff series with 12. The Flyers connected on 12 of 23 power plays for 52.2 percent.
"We gave up 12 power-play goals in six games. That's a big factor in every game, including the ones we win," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "That really was the biggest factor in the series."
Bylsma admitted that the lack of success early in the series on the PK had a psychological effect on the guys who play in the shorthanded situations. The Flyers got only one power-play chance in Game 1, but they made it count for the game-tying goal 12:23 into the third period.
They won the game 4-3 in overtime.
Philadelphia had just two power-play chances in Game 2, but Claude Giroux's goal 5:11 into the second period was key because it sliced Pittsburgh's 3-1 lead in half and started the Flyers comeback that turned into an 8-5 win.
The Flyers scored on 3-of-6 power plays en route to an 8-4 win in Game 3. Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds each scored on the power play in the second period to extend the lead back to two goals after the Penguins cut it down to one. Read's goal wound up being the game-winner.
All five of the goals the Flyers scored between Games 4 and 5 were on the power play, and the winner in Game 6 also was a power-play goal.
"Our penalty killers have been good all season long," Bylsma said, "and starting with Game 1 we didn't get that."
2. No answer for Giroux
Claude Giroux was not only the best center on the series, he was the best player in the series on either side. That's saying a lot when you consider Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were also involved.
The Penguins simply could not stop Giroux, who had 14 points on six goals and eight assists -- all in the final five games. Jordan Staal's line limited Giroux and his linemates, Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr, in Game 1, but the Penguins had no answer the rest of the way.
Giroux had a hat trick and six points in Game 2. He had two points in both Games 3 and 4 and then one more in Game 5. But, he was probably at his best (strange when you consider he had a six-point game) in the series clincher Sunday.
Giroux begged to be in the starting lineup and rewarded coach Peter Laviolette by crushing Crosby six seconds into the game and then scoring 26 seconds later. He added assists on the goals by Hartnell and Erik Gustafsson that got the Flyers out to a 3-0 lead with 14:35 left in the second period.
"He played well and he wanted to show it on the first shift that he is ready to go," Crosby said of Giroux. "That's hockey. You've got to make plays. They got a great start, which is what they wanted. He got everyone into it and he had a good series all the way around, right through. He started it off for them today."
3. Blown leads
The Penguins looked unstoppable when the series was 20 minutes old. They had a 3-0 lead after the first period in Game 1, but couldn't hold it.
They looked like they righted themselves after what could have been a devastating 4-3 overtime loss in Game 1 by jumping out to a 3-1 lead after the first period in Game 2.
It didn't last. Philadelphia scored seven of the next nine goals in the game and won it 8-5.
"I'll spend a lot of time thinking about that," Bylsma said.
Heck, the Penguins even had a 1-0 lead in Game 3, but the Flyers scored three times over the next eight minutes to take control of the game.
4. Fleury wasn't good enough
If Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't at his best in Game 5, there wouldn't have been a Game 6. But, if Fleury was at his best in Games 1-3, the series likely would have gone much different for the Penguins.
Fleury gave up four goals on the last 20 shots he saw in Game 1 as the Penguins gave back all of a 3-0 lead. He gave up seven goals on 30 shots in Game 2 and then was pulled after giving up six more on 28 shots through two periods in Game 3.
It looked like it would be more of the same in Game 4 when he gave up three goals on 11 shots in the first period, but Fleury steadied himself behind a Penguins team that dominated on the power play and blew away the Flyers for their first win.
Fleury was finally great in Game 5, leading Pittsburgh to a 3-2 win with 14 saves -- some brilliant -- in the third period. However, he couldn't build on it in Game 6 as he gave up two dribblers between his legs and a long-range slapper that he never reacted to.
Fleury allowed four goals on 22 shots in Game 6.
"All of them," Fleury said when he was asked if there was any particular goal he would have liked to have back Sunday.
5. Malkin held in check by a rookie and his buddies
Malkin had 109 points in the regular season to win his second Art Ross Trophy. He had eight points against the Flyers, but he wasn't nearly as dominant as the Penguins needed him to be because 19-year-old rookie Sean Couturier did a marvelous job defensively against him and Braydon Coburn was his shadow for most of the series.
Malkin didn't score the first of his three goals until Game 4. Pittsburgh, of course, lost Games 1, 2 and 3 as Malkin was held to only three secondary assists and four in total. Three of his four assists came on the power play.
Just when it looked like Malkin was going to break out after he had two goals and an assist along with a plus-4 rating in Game 4, he went backward in Game 5, when he lost his cool a few times and gave Philadelphia a pair of power-play opportunities with a roughing minor in the first period and an interference minor in the second.
The Flyers scored with Malkin in the box in the first.
He was better in Game 6, when he scored the Penguins' only goal, but overall it was a disappointing series, a disappointing eight points for the League's scoring champion and most dominant player in the regular season.