Flyers stay alive with 4-2 victory
Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Flyers spent the last two days talking about what they had to do to win a game in the Eastern Conference Finals. They had to get more pucks on net. They had to create traffic in front of the Pittsburgh net. And they had to avoid costly turnovers.
Talking about it is one thing. Doing it is another. The Flyers did it.
Joffrey Lupul scored twice, Scott Hartnell had three assists and Martin Biron stopped 36 shots as the Flyers took a 3-0 first-period lead and prolonged their season with a 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Jordan Staal, playing one day after attending the funeral of his grandfather in Thunder Bay, Ontario, scored both goals for the Penguins, who will have another chance to advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since winning it all in 1992 on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio) back in Pittsburgh.
In the game’s final minute, 34 minutes in penalties were assessed as Philadelphia’s Derian Hatcher and Pittsburgh’s Ryan Malone scrapped, and Sidney Crosby and Mike Richards got into a scrum.
“Sidney is a competitive player,” Richards said. “I’m competitive, too. I think he thought I was trying to slash him. I was trying to move the puck forward. He was probably angry he wasn’t winning the hockey game and he tried to slash me. We can’t worry about getting undisciplined and running around like village idiots. We just have to go out there and finish our checks when they’re there but not run around.”
The Flyers played composed, and that composure led to them scoring the game’s first goal and playing with a lead for the first time since the early part of Game 1.
Lupul took care of the last part when he raced up the right wing and ripped a shot from the top of the faceoff circle that hit the stick of Pittsburgh defenseman Hal Gill and flew over goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s glove at 8:27 of the first period.
“You don’t want to say being ahead or down a goal dictates how you play, but everyone knows its easier to play with a lead, especially when you get a three-goal lead like we did today,” Lupul said. “That was key, and we stuck with it. In the third period they got one from behind the goal line that bounced in in a weird way. But we kept playing.”
Daniel Briere made it 2-0 at 11:48 when he scored the Flyers’ second power-play goal of the series. Randy Jones fired a shot from the left point that Fleury stopped, but with the rebound lying loose in front, Briere battled his way between Fleury and Gill and knocked the puck into the net as he was falling to the ice.
Jeff Carter made it 3-0 when he scored his sixth of the playoffs. With the Flyers on the power play, Fleury stopped Jaroslav Modry’s shot from the point. R.J. Umberger and Carter had shots at the rebound, and Carter dug the puck out of a pile of bodies and backhanded it past an out-of-position Fleury with 1:10 left in the period.
The Flyers had been 1-for-9 on the power play in the first three games, but went 2-for-4 with 14 shots on goal Thursday.
“We started shooting the puck again,” Flyers coach John Stevens said. “I think we were trying to pass the puck to the net. They're a very good penalty-killing team, and sometimes you don't score on the initial shot, but you create secondary chances at the net. I thought the power play did that early, and really gave us momentum.”
The Penguins will try to regain that momentum when the series goes back to Mellon Arena. They started down that path by playing a strong final 40 minutes, led by better play from Fleury and a pair of third-period goals from Staal.
“After the second period, I thought we brought our game to the level that I was looking for,” Therrien said. “We've got to make sure we play that same level at home that we did in the second and third.”
Staal, who was switched onto a line with Maxime Talbot and Tyler Kennedy during the game after starting with Kennedy and Jarkko Ruutu, banked a shot off the back of Biron’s leg and into the net 3:16 into the third. He made it a one-goal game when he one-timed Kennedy’s pass past Biron with 5:49 left.
But the Flyers, who have made a habit of giving away leads, made this one hold up. Lupul’s empty-netter with 32.3 seconds left put the icing on the cake.
“We seem to have a way to make it exciting one way or another,” Stevens said.
Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh, after the Penguins lost for just the second time in the postseason.
“You want to win every game,” Crosby said. “They had a good first period and we didn't. And that was really the difference. We fought hard in the second and third … but it was just too little, too late.”
“We've got to look at the big picture here,” said Therrien. “After four games, we're leading 3-1 and that's the most important thing for us. I like our chance.
“We're in good position, good command, the same position that we were against the Rangers, and we played a solid game (in Game 5). And this is what we've got to focus on.”
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.