The other red-hot team in these Stanley Cup Playoffs continued its roll on Sunday night.
Although the Detroit Red Wings
have looked unstoppable of late, running up eight straight victories, the Pittsburgh Penguins
actually have the best record since the start of the postseason. Taking advantage of a third-period goal by the returning Maxime Talbot
, the Penguins improved to 10-1 with a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers
in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
That gives Michel Therrien
’s squad a commanding 2-0 lead, as for the third straight series the Penguins swept the opening two games at Mellon Arena.
Once again they received strong goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury
, who made 30 saves, and a pair of power-play goals – including one from captain Sidney Crosby
Meanwhile, the Flyers, who have lost Game 1 in each of the three rounds, failed to bounce back and tie the series and face a two-game deficit for the first time in the 2008 playoffs. They also lost another valuable member of their defense corps, as Braydon Coburn
was knocked out of the lineup early in the first period.
With Game 3 set for Tuesday night in Philadelphia, here are five talking points from Game 2 to ponder as we await the start of Game 3 between the Detroit Red Wings
and Dallas Stars
on Monday night:
1. No Place Like Home
It would be an understatement to say the Penguins have played well of late at Mellon Arena. It would be more accurate to say they’ve been simply unbeatable.
Pittsburgh has won seven straight on home ice in this year’s playoffs, a franchise record that surpasses the six in a row accomplished by the 1992 Stanley Cup champions.
Home ice in the postseason is a precarious honor. All it takes is the road team winning one of the first two games and the advantage then shifts in their favor. But the Penguins haven’t allowed that to happen over the first three rounds, carrying all the momentum on the road with them and putting their opponents under a lot of pressure.
But the Penguins didn’t just turn it on at home when the calendar reached mid-April. They ended the regular season by taking their final eight in friendly territory. The home faithful in Pittsburgh haven’t left unhappy since a 2-1 shootout loss to San Jose way back on Feb. 24.
On another note, the Penguins also remained unbeaten in the playoffs when scoring the first goal, improving to 8-0 in such situations.
2. Defense Takes Another Hit
Losing Kimmo Timonen
to a blood clot in his leg prior to the start of the series was a huge blow for the Flyers. Now, they must hold their breath while waiting to see if up-and-coming blueliner Braydon Coburn
will miss significant time after he took a puck to the face during the first period Sunday night.
Less than two minutes into the game, Pittsburgh’s Hal Gill
took a shot that hit a stick and went up into Coburn’s face, striking him near the left eye and drawing blood. Coburn was led off to the Philadelphia dressing room and would not return. He will be re-examined to determine the extent of the injury.
The rest of the Flyers’ defense did an admirable job stepping up after Coburn went down. Derian Hatcher
logged over 28 minutes of ice time. The veteran tandem of Jason Smith
and Jaroslav Modry
, and the young duo of Randy Jones
and Lasse Kukkonen
But the Flyers face a tough task coming back on the Penguins, and it would become even more challenging without the services of Coburn. Picked up at the trade deadline in 2007 for Alexei Zhitnik
, he developed this season into a strong, two-way player who can stop an opponent’s top threats, then come up the ice and deliver some offense of his own.
3. Talbot’s Triumphant Return
A valuable winger who chipped in 12 goals during the regular season and one against Ottawa in the first round, Maxime Talbot
was lost to the Penguins after the opening game of the Rangers series with a broken foot.
Talbot watched his teammates finish off New York in five games, then prevail in the first game against the Flyers before he was deemed healthy enough to lace up his skates and return to the lineup Sunday night.
As it turned out, Talbot was more than just another warm body on the Pittsburgh bench – he converted a Gary Roberts
pass 8:51 into the third period to snap a 2-2 tie and put the Penguins ahead for good.
Opponents take the ice against Pittsburgh knowing what Crosby, Evgeni Malkin
and Marian Hossa
can do to beat them. But contributions from role players like Talbot are what have made the Penguins a great team during these playoffs, instead of a merely good one.
4. Mistake Proves Costly
While Talbot made the most of his return to the lineup, things didn’t go quite as well for rookie Steve Downie
of the Flyers. Inserted back into the lineup by coach John Stevens
in place of Patrick Thoresen
, the energetic winger found himself on the wrong end of the play that resulted in Talbot’s go-ahead goal.
Downie got to the puck along the boards in his defensive zone and had a chance to chip it out to center. Instead he turned it over, and seconds later Talbot deposited it past Flyers goaltender Martin Biron
It was definitely a costly mistake for the Flyers, who went on to lose, and it could send Downie back to the press box when the series returns to Philadelphia. Downie first cracked the postseason lineup in Game 7 against Washington in the first round, then played in the first three games of the Montreal series. But Stevens’ displeasure was clear when discussing the play afterward, and with no margin for error going forward, it will be interesting to see how Downie factors into the rest of the series, if at all.
5. No Goal? No Problem
After Crosby’s power-play goal midway through the first period gave the Penguins a lead, they thought they had added to it before intermission arrived.
During a 4-on-4, Sergei Gonchar
took a backhander from along the goal line that pinballed off Biron’s stick and Hatcher’s helmet before appearing to land on its side along the goal line. It then looked as though Biron may have pushed the puck back over the line while Crosby also whacked away at it.
Crosby raised his stick, indicating it was a goal, but the officials ruled otherwise. The play would be reviewed, and although replays seemed to suggest the puck probably rolled all the way across the goal line the NHL said it had no conclusive replay to overturn what the officials had ruled on the ice.
Had the Penguins lost, the no-goal call undoubtedly would have received a lot more attention. As it stands, Pittsburgh was able to overcome it and Philadelphia couldn’t take advantage of a break in its favor.