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Penguins-Flyers series a goaltender's nightmare

by John Kreiser /
Conventional wisdom is that the Stanley Cup Playoffs are all about tight checking and great goaltending. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers obviously didn't get the message.

After a season in which the average NHL game saw a combined total of roughly 5.3 (non-shootout) goals, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have shattered the record for the most goals scored in the first four games of a series. The Penguins' 10-3 win on Wednesday brought the total to 45 -- one more than the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks scored in the first four games of the 1985 Campbell Conference Finals.

But the Oilers and Hawks played run-and-gun in a free-scoring era -- the average regular-season game in 1984-85 featured nearly 7.8 goals per game, nearly 50 percent more than this season's average. To have two teams averaging more than double the number of goals scored in the regular season in such a tight-checking era is nearly incomprehensible.

The Penguins were the first team to hit double figures since Los Angeles did it in a 12-4 win against Calgary in 1990 -- and the first road team to do so since Edmonton won 10-2 in Calgary in April 1983. The Penguins hadn't reached 10 goals in a playoff game since April 25, 1989, when Mario Lemieux had five goals and eight points in a 10-7 win against the Flyers in Game 5 of the opening round.

The seven-goal win was one short of the largest margin of victory in the playoffs in Penguins history -- they beat the Minnesota North Stars 8-0 in Game 6 of the 1991 Final to win their first Stanley Cup.  The Penguins matched the NHL mark for most goals scored by a team facing elimination, and the Pens and Flyers combined to become the first team to score 11 or more goals in three consecutive games.

But perhaps the most remarkable statistic from the Penguins' victory is that Pittsburgh put 10 shots into the net -- and missed the net on just nine attempts.

Overtime nightmares -- Henrik Lundqvist may take home the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender in the regular season, but he's still looking for the key to overtime success in the playoffs.

Henrik Lundqvist
Goalie - NYR
RECORD: 2-2-0
GAA: 1.97 | SVP: 0.940
Lundqvist was beaten by Kyle Turris 2:42 into OT on Wednesday as Ottawa tied its first-round series against the New York Rangers with a 3-2 win. It was Ottawa's second overtime win in the series -- the Senators have split the first four games despite not playing a single second of the series with a lead.

Though Lundqvist is the first goaltender in NHL history to begin his career with seven consecutive 30-win seasons, the playoffs -- and specifically overtime -- are another story. Wednesday's loss dropped Lundqvist to 17-22 all-time in postseason play and was his seventh straight playoff overtime loss after he won his first playoff OT game.

Home at last -- Visiting teams won two of the three games played Wednesday, extending the dominance of the guys in the white sweaters to 19-9 through the first eight days of the postseason, including 8-1 in the past three nights.

But the one win by home teams in the last three days was a special one for the Ottawa Senators.
Ottawa's 3-2 OT win against the Rangers was the Senators' first at Scotiabank Place in nearly five years. Ottawa had dropped seven in a row at home since beating Anaheim in Game 3 of the 2007 Stanley Cup Final.

No-sweep zone -- For just the second time in the last seven postseasons, there will be no first-round sweeps.

Two series could have ended in four games with victories by the home teams on Wednesday, but Pittsburgh extended its season by winning 10-3 in Philadelphia and Vancouver won 3-1 at Los Angeles.
Before this season, the only time since 2006 that there were no sweeps in the eight first-round series was 2010. There was one sweep in the first round in 2006, '07 and '08 before three of the eight opening-round series in 2009 ended in four games.

The Canucks' victory enabled them to avoid becoming the first No. 1 seed to be swept in a first-round series since the current format was adopted in 1994. Pittsburgh's victory against the Flyers enabled the Penguins to avoid being swept for the first time in any round since 1979.
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