-- Upon returning home after a pair of frustrating losses in Chicago, the Philadelphia Flyers
talked about how close they were to stealing at least one of those games. They lost Game 1 in what felt like an old west shootout and Game 2 due to the stellar play of Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi.
Ratchet up their level even a tiny notch, the Flyers thought, and bang, it'll be 2-2 in this Stanley Cup Final before the Chicago Blackhawks
could make a decision, Pat's or Geno's.
The Flyers pumped it up Wednesday and again Friday, and that's why, after a 5-3 win at Wachovia Center in Game 4, they are indeed headed back to Chicago to begin what is essentially a three-game series for the Stanley Cup with Game 5 Sunday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
"We played some good games (in Chicago) and the bounces didn't come, but now we're starting to create our own bounces and we're getting to the front of the net a lot better," Flyers center Danny Briere
said. "I'm confident going back to Chicago."
They were confident coming home from Chicago, too, but how come the bounces -- such as the two goals they scored off turnovers and the one they scored off the back of a Blackhawk in Game 4 -- started to go their way?
Hard work is not a good enough answer. There's a heck of a lot more, a heck of a lot.
The Flyers got two more dominating efforts from four defensemen (Chris Pronger
, Matt Carle
, Braydon Coburn
and Kimmo Timonen
) that deserve a few weeks sitting poolside in paradise when this series in finally over.
They all played more than 28 and a half minutes in Game 3, and at least 24 and a half minutes in Game 4. Combined, Oskars Bartulis
and Lukas Krajicek
played 23:13 over the two games.
Philadelphia's Big Four is now weighing heavily on the Hawks.
"We didn't allow too many high-quality scoring chances," said Pronger, whose 27:51 of ice time was actually one second less than Braydon Coburn
's team-high 27:52. "We needed to defend the slot, and we did a good job of that. When (Michael Leighton
) was called upon he made some saves, and we did a good job of clearing the front of our net."
The Flyers again won the battle of special teams. It took a rare 5-on-3 chance late in the third period for the Blackhawks to score their first power-play goal of the series, but it was only their ninth power play of the series.
The disciplined Flyers -- at least until Scott Hartnell
's unsportsmanlike penalty for banging his stick on the boards midway through the third period Friday -- scored three times on nine power-play chances over Games 3 and 4.
The special teams battle is starting to make a difference.
"We did a good job of getting in on the forecheck and creating those turnovers and we were able to jump on them early. They took some penalties early and we were able to capitalize on them. Part of our game plan was to try to force them to be a little bit undisciplined and make sure our power play was clicking"
-- Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger
"I felt they were very frustrated (Friday), a lot of cheap shots after whistles," Briere said. "It's good to see for us. I hope it keeps going that way, but I'm not in their room so I don't know what the mindset is on their side."
The Flyers capitalized when given the chance to do so. They scored their first two goals Friday directly off turnovers by Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson
, who later said he felt he let his team down.
swiped the puck away from an unsuspecting Hjalmarsson and then slithered a backhand through Niemi to put the Flyers up 1-0 with a power-play goal 4:35 into the game. Just over 10 minutes later, Hjalmarsson swiped the puck out of the crease, but put it right on Carle's tape for a slam dunk goal.
scored the winner Friday with a wrist shot that went off Kris Versteeg
's back and past a stunned Niemi 6:43 into the third. Remember, too, that the Flyers scored four goals in Game 3 on either rebounds or tips.
They went hard at the net and made the Hawks pay the price. That's winning hockey.
"We did a good job of getting in on the forecheck and creating those turnovers and we were able to jump on them early," Pronger said of Friday's game. "They took some penalties early and we were able to capitalize on them. Part of our game plan was to try to force them to be a little bit undisciplined and make sure our power play was clicking."
The underlying fact here is that the Flyers flipped the switch on the Hawks by winning Games 3 and 4 in a strikingly similar way to how the Hawks won Games 1 and 2.
Games 1 and 3 were back-and-forth, though the former was kind of sloppy while the latter had better speed and great puck movement.
The Blackhawks grabbed a two-goal lead and hung on for dear life in the third to win Game 2. Philadelphia grabbed a three-goal lead and hung on for dear life in the last 10 minutes to win Game 4.
The Flyers made the difference at home because they made their breaks count.
"I wasn't just talking. I thought we could have won both games (in Chicago)," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette
said. "I like our game. I like what we're doing. In saying that, they probably thought they could have won Game 3. It's going back and forth quick both ways. Guys are really competing out there. But nothing changed for us. Our game hasn't changed. Just the score changed."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl