— The Pittsburgh Penguins
hope this isn’t as good as it gets, but the euphoric feeling they had after their 4-1 victory in Game 3 against the Philadelphia Flyers
on Tuesday night was undoubtedly the best they’ve experienced in this year’s Playoffs.
Not only did they move one win away from a trip to the Stanley Cup Final by taking what is most likely an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals, they won at the Wachovia Center for the first time all season.
“I think it’s rewarding,” captain Sidney Crosby
said. “You come into a building that’s a challenge to play in. You know you’re facing some adversity. And you really only have the guys on your bench and your team behind you — that’s it. You know, it feels like you’re against more than just their team. So, it’s a rewarding feeling to come out of that with a win.”
That said, the Penguins said they must resist the temptation of looking past Game 4 on Thursday night.
“This is our rival and we don’t want to give them any life,” forward Jarkko Ruutu
said. “At the same time it’s still 3-0. It’s not over. We have to win the fourth game.”
The cliché goes that the fourth win is always the hardest, and the Penguins believe it. They’re 1-1 in Game 4s this postseason, but each time entered leading 3-0. They beat Ottawa 3-1, but lost 3-0 to the New York Rangers
before winning Game 5 in overtime.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re focused because we know those first 10 minutes will be critical,” forward Ryan Malone
said. “We have to take the fans out of it as soon as possible. We’re playing Philly, so there is always that extra incentive to get the job done (Thursday).”
— Dan Rosen
– Flyers coach John Stevens
showed confidence in Steve Downie
by playing the rookie after his turnover in Game 2 led to the Penguins' game-winning goal.
“There’ll be lots more good days for Steve Downie
,” Stevens said Monday.
Tuesday was not one of those good days. Downie’s pass in the offensive zone midway through the third period was picked off by Evgeni Malkin
and led to Ryan Malone
’s goal that put the Flyers in a 3-1 hole.
Stevens did not mince words Tuesday night.
“We put him back in because you know he’s a big-game player — but he’s got to learn, and obviously, he hasn’t,” the coach said. “You can’t make that play. A flat pass going in the offensive zone with Malkin on the ice, it hasn’t worked all series. I don’t know why we think it’s going to work now.”
Stevens intimated Downie was unlikely to play in Game 4 Thursday night.
— Adam Kimelman
— The Penguins once again took an early lead in a crucial Game 3 on the road and it led to a victory.
scored 1:02 into the first period of Game 3 against the Rangers on April 29. On Tuesday night against the Flyers, Ryan Whitney
scored 5:03 into the game and Hossa added his seventh of the Playoffs 2:38 later.
“That was crucial,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien
said of the quick start that took the sellout crowd out of the game. “We did it against the Rangers. When you come into a new building and have a two-game lead, most of the time the home team will feed from the crowd. Our game plan was to make sure we pursued the puck really well and try to attack them as quick as we can. We ended up with a two-goal lead and that took away their emotion.”
For a team as powerful as the Penguins, it’s hard to quantify exactly what it means to score the first goal, but the stats are telling. They’ve scored the first goal in nine games this postseason — and they’re 9-0. They’re 6-0 when leading after the first period, which they’ve dominated by outscoring the opposition, 12-5.
“Our preparation has been really good and that shows,” forward Jarkko Ruutu
said. “It’s a lot easier to play with the lead instead of being down and trying to claw back.”
— Dan Rosen
— Petr Sykora
got up gingerly and skated off the ice slowly after being hit hard and slightly late by Downie after feeding Malone for the Penguins’ third goal. He returned to the game later in the third period.
“The ref said it was a clean hit, a little late, but he’s letting those hits go all game,” Malone said. “He can take the punishment to make a play like that. That’s what it takes to make it in the playoffs now. Sykie took a hit to make the play.”
— Dan Rosen
— The Flyers have trailed 3-0 in a playoff series five other times in their history and have yet to win.
The last time was in 1997, when the Detroit Red Wings
swept Philadelphia in the Stanley Cup Final. The Penguins are now 25-17 all-time in Game 3 of a playoff series, including 16-6 on the road.
“I think we have to find that next level and elevate our game,” Flyers center Mike Richards
said. “We need to take it one step at a time. We won four straight against Montreal after dropping the first one. We realize it’s not a task we can’t pull off. We just have to be patient and know we can’t win four games in one.”
Flyers center R.J. Umberger, who scored his 10th of the playoffs to pull his team within 2-1 at 10:59 of the first period, echoed those sentiments.
|The situation appears to look pretty bleak for the Philadelphia Flyers have trailed 3-0 in a postseason series in their history five other times but have yet to comeback to win.
“You can’t win the fourth unless you win the first one, and that’s our goal,” Umberger said.
“We’re just not generating enough offense as a group. That must to change.”
— Mike G. Morreale
Minute man — After logging a season-high 28:31 of ice time in Philadelphia’s 4-2 loss in Game 2 on Sunday, 35-year-old defenseman Derian Hatcher said he was rested and raring to go for Game 3 at Wachovia Center.
Hatcher was forced into double duty along the blue line just 1:07 into Game 2 when Braydon Coburn took a puck to the face. The resulted gash required 50-plus stitches.
No timetable has been set on Coburn’s return. The Flyers entered the series minus the services of veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who is sidelined with a blood clot in his left foot. Hatcher was on the ice for 18:15 in Game 3 on Tuesday.
“You have to do what you have to do, and we lost a key guy on the back end there,” Hatcher told NHL.com. “If the coaches need me to play another 28 minutes in this series, I’ll do it. I actually felt great before the game; just your normal bumps and bruises.”
In Coburn’s absence, rookie defenseman Ryan Parent was inserted into the lineup and started alongside captain Jason Smith. Parent logged 18:06 of ice time on 26 shifts and committed a game-high four giveaways.
Prior to last night, Parent’s only other appearance in a Stanley Cup Playoff game was in Game 1 against the Washington Capitals on April 11 when he finished a plus-1 in 13:17 of action.
“The thing I told Ryan was to just relax and enjoy the experience,” Hatcher said. “He needed to just play the game the way he knows how and not attempt to overdo it. He’s played a lot of hockey over his career and he just needed to fall back on that experience. Of course, the NHL Playoffs are different, but we were talking to him before and during the game. He just needed to keep it simple.”
— Mike G. Morreale