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Flyers penalty-killers have shut down Hawks in Final

by Shawn P. Roarke
PHILADELPHIA -- Blair Betts, Ian Laperriere and Darroll Powe were the final three starting forwards off the ice during Thursday's optional practice at the Wachovia Center.

"We don't play that many minutes, so on optional days we'll go out and there and sweat it out a little bit; sweat my Red Bull out," Laperriere joked.

By the way, Betts, Laperriere and Powe are also the three primary penalty-killing forwards for the Flyers.

Coincidence? Not on your life.

"You try not to play the score, but any time you have a chance to kill a penalty and you do kill it, you are taking momentum away from them. You never know when killing off that penalty can change the game." -- Philadelphia Flyers center Blair Betts

"PK, that is what it is about; it's about playing in a system, but it is about effort -- effort to get in shot lanes, working to get the puck out of the zone," Powe told a little more than 12 hours after his Flyers took a 4-3 overtime victory against Chicago in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. "That is how we have been successful this series by being a hard-working penalty kill. Obviously, the extra work pays off at this time of the year."

The extra work has paid off for the Flyers through the first three games of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. Philadelphia has not allowed the high-powered Blackhawks to score on the power play in six attempts so far. In fact, Philadelphia has soundly won the special-teams war -- scoring four power-play goals in 10 attempts -- to keep pace with the favored Hawks.

The Flyers enter Game 4 at Wachovia Center (8 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC, RDS) on Friday night with a chance to even this best-of-7 at two victories apiece, a thought that was hard to imagine after back-to-back, one-goal losses at the United Center. If this series does become a best-of-3, the Flyers will have to place much of the credit upon their special-teams' play.

"Our power play was successful last night and that worked for us, gave us some momentum," Betts told

Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell scored Philadelphia's first two goals in Wednesday night's Game 3 while on the power play, giving Philadelphia a one-goal lead each time.

The Flyers, though, took a penalty within six minutes of each of those power-play goals in Game 3, opening the door for the Hawks to take control of the game. But each time, Philadelphia's man-short unit slammed it shut with a deadly combination of effort and sacrifice.

"You try not to play the score, but any time you have a chance to kill a penalty and you do kill it, you are taking momentum away from them," Betts said. "You never know when killing off that penalty can change the game."

For that reason, the Flyers are hell-bent for success on the few occasions Philadelphia has put itself at a manpower disadvantage in this series.

Defensemen Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen make sure that they clear the front of the net and bang pucks out into the neutral zone whenever possible. Betts, Powe and Laperriere -- usually supplemented by Claude Giroux and Mike Richards in the rotation of penalty-killing forwards -- aggressively harass Chicago's point men, contest 50-50 pucks with zeal and block shots on a regular basis. 

"At this time of year, penalty kills are all big," Laperriere told "It's not because you have the lead or they have the lead that you have to kill it. Every time, right now, you have to kill it. It's the Stanley Cup and it doesn't get any bigger than that.

"You don't want them to score because it is a matter of one goal making a difference. Three games, one goal made the difference here, so you just want to go out and make sure they don't score."

Philadelphia has actually been doing just that throughout this postseason. The Flyers have allowed just 10 goals in 83 times short these playoffs, an 88 percent success rate. They have killed the past 14 power plays, dating back to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Amazingly, the only power-play goal Philadelphia has allowed in its past 28 times shorthanded was that Game 3 goal against Montreal, which came during a 5-on-3 advantage in the dying seconds of a 5-1 loss.

Despite that run of success, you won't catch Philadelphia's penalty-killing unit resting on its laurels. They are too blue-collar not to understand that much work lies ahead and even the slightest dip in their energy level could cost them dearly.

"This team, with the power they have, has the ability to walk off the wall and shoot or make low plays and things like that," Betts told "We want to be aggressive when we can, but against these guys we feel if we are running around, they can burn us. It's just about being smart."

Smart sure does help, but a healthy dose of elbow grease is just as important – as the Flyers have shown so far in this series.
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