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Special teams power Flyers to weekend sweep

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins could play in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Flyers have to like that possibility a bit more after the past two days.

Philadelphia completed a weekend sweep of the Penguins with a 4-3 win at Consol Energy Center on Sunday.

After facing 12 shots through the first two periods, Philadelphia goaltender Steve Mason made 11 saves in the third to preserve the Flyers' one-goal lead. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had a chance to tie the game with 31 seconds remaining, but Mason stopped Crosby's wrist shot.

Another Crosby shot hit the post just before the end of regulation. Mason said he wasn't worried about Crosby scoring because "[The post] is all I gave him" and that his team wouldn't shy from playing Pittsburgh in the postseason.

"I know the boys in this locker room love playing against them," Mason said. "Whether we're in their head or not, we don't really care. We get amped up to play against them. It's a fun game to be a part of."

Pittsburgh was without forwards Chris Kunitz (lower body) and James Neal (concussion) for the second consecutive game, but Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said their absence cannot be used as an excuse for the loss Sunday. Philadelphia won 4-0 at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday.

"There's not been a point at any time this season we've looked at injuries or a loss of a player as any indication in our play or what we're doing out there," Bylsma said. "We don't make a list of the players that aren't in our lineup going into this game. We feel totally capable with the guys that we have."

After trailing by three goals in the first period, the Penguins pulled to within a goal twice in the second. Forward Joe Vitale charged through the Philadelphia defense after sending the puck into the Flyers zone and gained possession before passing to Rob Scuderi at the blue line with the defense out of position. Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen took a pass from Scuderi and slapped a shot past Mason to cut the Philadelphia lead to 3-2 with his 10th goal of the season 5:50 into the period.

But Flyers forward Matt Read scored his second shorthanded goal of the weekend, deciding to keep the puck on a 2-on-1 before he took a wrist shot past Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff, and Philadelphia regained a two-goal lead with 7:49 remaining in the second.

"They have the No. 1 power play in the League," Read said. "It's just about taking time and space away from them, and getting in the right lanes and putting your sticks in the right positions. And I think our team, our whole penalty-kill unit, did a good job this weekend."

It took 4:09 for the Penguins to answer. Forward Jayson Megna joined Brian Gibbons on a 2-on-1 and received a pass around defenseman Kimmo Timmonen, who committed to blocking the pass early and slid between the Pittsburgh forwards. Megna tapped the pass behind Mason to send the game into the third period with a 4-3 Flyers lead.

Crosby said he thought Pittsburgh played better than it did Saturday, but didn't think it should be a consolation.

"It's what we're supposed to do though," Crosby said. "I don't know if that's asking a lot. You have to compete for 60 minutes and we didn't do a very good job of that in the first, but that's the expectation, to go out there and play hard for 60 minutes.

"I don't see the positive in only playing 40."

The Flyers held a two-goal lead in the first period for the second time against Pittsburgh this weekend, chasing goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from the game.

Fleury made a sprawling glove save on Wayne Simmonds after Vincent Lecavalier sent a pass past a sliding Olli Maatta through the Penguins crease, but Fleury couldn't secure the puck and it bounced out to Flyers forward Brayden Schenn, who backhanded it past Fleury for the first goal 2:06 into the game.

After scoring one power-play and one shorthanded goal Saturday, the Flyers' special teams continued to create problems for Pittsburgh by scoring on two of their three first-period power plays.

With Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo in the penalty box for interference, Simmonds deflected a slap shot past Fleury for a 2-0 Flyers lead at 6:47 of the first. Simmonds scored another power-play goal 6:54 later by battling for the puck in the crease before flipping it over Fleury's right pad to extend the lead to 3-0.

Fleury was replaced by Zatkoff after allowing three goals on 15 shots.

"I think our team will get confidence from this," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "Anytime you come in and you can beat Pittsburgh twice, it's a big boost. It's a very good team over there, very well coached. They play hard, they have great players."

Pittsburgh received a spark moments before the end of the period when Brooks Orpik slapped a shot by Mason for the Penguins' first goal of the weekend with 2:27 left in the first.

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