VOORHEES, N.J. - The Flyers' playoff predicament is a cruelly familiar one.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins lead Philadelphia 2-0 in this playoff series - just like last year in the Eastern Conference finals. This year's quarter-finals shifts on Sunday back to Philadelphia for Game 3 with the Flyers looking to make this a competitive series - again, like last season.
At this pace, the Flyers are looking at a repeat scenario with a post-season exit.
The Flyers lost Game 3 at home with the series basically on the line in the conference finals last season, so there's no guarantee a return to the raucous atmosphere those orange-and-black diehards add to every game will mean much other than a rocking arena.
"Our minds are in a lot better place than we were last year," Flyers centre Danny Briere said on Saturday. "We're feeling a lot better. I thought we should be talking about a 1-1 series. We win one game and we're right back there."
History is against the Flyers.
They have won only two best-of-seven series when trailing 0-2: Philadelphia won four straight after dropping the first two to Toronto in the 1977 quarter-finals and did the same thing to the Penguins in the 2000 Eastern Conference semifinals. All 17 NHL teams that have jumped out to a 2-0 lead in each of the last two post-seasons have gone on to win the series.
The Flyers tossed those omens under the Zamboni.
"We're coming back to our building thinking this is our game to have," Flyers goalie Martin Biron said.
It could be if Philadelphia eliminates the pesky penalties and undisciplined play that have led to the first two losses. The Flyers were whistled for 34 penalty minutes in Game 1 - not a total surprise for the NHL's most-penalized team - then appeared to keep their sticks in check with only 6 penalty minutes in regulation of Game 2.
Overtime cost them big.
Mike Knuble extended his arms, not once, but twice into the back of Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik and was whistled for cross-checking. Claud Giroux picked up a slashing penalty only 30 seconds later, giving the Penguins a two-man advantage that Bill Guerin would cash in with the winning goal.
Knuble, a 12-year veteran, made his second costly mistake in two games. In the Game 1 loss, he tried banking a pass off the back wall, but the puck skittered to Malkin and he quickly snapped it past Biron for a 3-0 lead.
"Two games in a row something stupid happened to me," Knuble said. "You feel like you're single-handedly thwarting your team's chances and ruining your team's chances. You feel one way the night before, then you feel it again. You're disgusted."
Knuble, though, wondered if the cross-checking call was made to even things. Referee Bill McCreary had already called one cross-checking penalty on Penguins defenceman Hal Gill in OT, so officials were looking for a Philadelphia infraction.
"I can be as mad as I want about the call and feel it's unjust, but the fact is, I gave him the opportunity and that's the mistake," Knuble said.
Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen questioned if the officials are treating his team the same as the Penguins.
"What I noticed was, I didn't see the refs yelling at their bench at all. Not one time," Timonen said. "I could see them coming over to our bench a few times. It makes you always wonder why."
Timonen said the Flyers deserved the same respect from the refs as he feels they gave Pittsburgh.
"You see these guys going to the refs and talking to them, and it looks like (the refs) talk to them back," Timonen said. "We go talk to them and they yell at us. It's a little bit of a difference. It's not something we can control."
Flyers coach John Stevens hoped the players like captain Mike Richards, Timonen and Simon Gagne were respected enough by the officials that they would at least earn the chance to explain their gripes and grievances.
Crosby, who has a goal and two points, liked how the Penguins scored twice on the power play in Game 2.
"I don't think either team took any stupid penalties, but when you get opportunities on the power play in the playoffs, they're big chances and you have to take advantage of them," he said.
The Flyers need more than the open ears of the officials to beat the Penguins. Jeff Carter, the NHL's second-leading goal scorer, has yet to record a point and wasted a few open looks in Game 2. Briere and Knuble have not recorded a point.
If those scorers get going, and the Flyers can keep pushing Malkin and Crosby outside, they believe they can get back in this series.
Start slow and have the home crowd start booing, and the Penguins could make this series an easy repeat.
"They're pretty loud, like Pittsburgh, so we can't give them any reason to get loud," Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury "It can turn pretty loud and turn into energy against us. I think we've seen (the crowd turn) sometimes, when we frustrate them and kill their power plays. If we do things like that, I think we can turn (the crowd) in our favour."
Notes: Flyers F Dan Carcillo will return after serving a one-game suspension for his whack to Penguins forward Max Talbot's head in the waning seconds of Game 1. ... Stevens hasn't decided if D Luca Sbisa will play.