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Team effort carrying Penguins in playoffs

by Brian Compton

The Penguins defeated the Flyers 4-2 to take a two game lead in their playoff series. Watch Penguins-Flyers highlight video
A few thoughts while we wait to see how the Stars will respond against the Red Wings on home ice tonight:

These Pens Are Deep – Yes, they have Sidney Crosby. Yes, they have Evgeni Malkin. Yes, they have Marian Hossa.

But the Pittsburgh Penguins are 10-1 in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs for more reasons than the aforementioned stars. Marc-Andre Fleury has been sensational and is finally getting some of the recognition he deserves. Hal Gill has been everything the Pens were hoping for on the blue line when they acquired the veteran defenseman on deadline day.

Beyond that, too, is the fact that this team is deep. The Penguins’ fourth line proved that Sunday night, when Maxime Talbot scored what proved to be the game-winner in Pittsburgh’s 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers at Mellon Arena.

Talbot capitalized on a weak clearing attempt by Steve Downie, who may have played his way into the press box for Game 3. Talbot – who missed the past three games with a foot injury – took a nifty pass from behind the net by veteran Gary Roberts and one-timed it past a helpless Martin Biron less than nine minutes into the third period.

While Crosby, Malkin and Hossa have scored their share of big goals in these playoffs, it’s the type of tallies that Talbot came up with Sunday night that separate the winners and losers at this time of year.

Tyler Kennedy is the lone forward on the Penguins’ roster who hasn’t found the back of the net this postseason. Georges Laraque has chipped in with three points. Roberts – who was banged up for much of the regular season – made what could end up being one of the biggest plays of Pittsburgh’s playoff run with the pretty set-up to Talbot and has also provided the Pens with plenty of leadership.

“We try to rotate four lines as much as we can,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “It’s nice to have contributions from different players. It’s good for those guys to be able to contribute to the success of the team. I was pleased to see them get rewarded for their hard work. It’s nice to see that.”

It’s also nice just to have Roberts in the lineup. Without a doubt, his experience is invaluable at this time of year.

“He’s a true leader,” Therrien said. “He didn’t play a lot of hockey since Christmas due to injuries, but he’s doing a great job. It’s going to be good for his confidence, too – to be able to contribute like he did. It’s a team affair. We’re happy that we’ve got depth.”

Black-and-Blue Blue Line – It wasn’t bad enough that the Philadelphia Flyers lost Kimmo Timonen prior to the start of the Eastern Conference Finals due to a blood clot in his left foot.

Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn took a shot from Pittsburgh’s Hal Gill in the face and left Game 2 less than two minutes after it started.
Now, they’ve lost Braydon Coburn, too.

The promising, young defenseman was lost less than two minutes into Game 2 after taking a shot from Pittsburgh’s Hal Gill in the face. Coburn left bloodied and bruised and did not return. He will be re-evaluated in Philadelphia and his status for Game 3 is probably less likely than Magic Johnson’s return to late-night television.

“He got a really bad gash on his forehead and across his eye,” Flyers coach John Stevens said. “It’s pretty swollen. We’ll have to evaluate him further when we get home.

“It’s tough. Coby’s an all-situations player for us and he plays big minutes. I thought the group of five did a heck of a job. We got big contributions from all of them. We moved the puck better. I thought the five guys stepped up and played a heck of a game.”

No More Drama – Some may be expecting the bad blood from the conclusion of Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals to find its way through baggage claim in Dallas as the series between the Stars and Detroit Red Wings shifts to American Airlines Center for Game 3 tonight.

But if you ask some of the players on each side, the altercation between Mike Ribeiro and Chris Osgood is all in the past.

“They’re not a very physical team by any means, but they do play the game. … And for us to try to get into some street fight ain’t going to work. You have to play the game of hockey and right now, they’re doing it better than us.” - Stars center Mike Modano
After all, can the Stars – who are in a must-win situation tonight down 2-0 in the best-of-seven series – afford to not focus on simply getting a victory?

“That’s probably the most you’re going to see of it (Saturday) night, hopefully,” Dallas forward Mike Modano said. “They’re not a very physical team by any means, but they do play the game. … And for us to try to get into some street fight ain’t going to work. You have to play the game of hockey and right now, they’re doing it better than us.”

Right now, the Red Wings are doing it better than anyone. They haven’t lost since their opening-round series against the Nashville Predators. Saturday, they proved they can still find a way to win even without Johan Franzen, who has 27 goals in 27 games. Based on how they’ve performed in these playoffs, it’s hard to believe that what transpired at the end of Game 2 will alter their performance.

“You’re not going to rattle us,” Detroit’s Darren McCarty said. “We’ve got too much experience for that.”

Which is why Stars coach Dave Tippett will be strictly focused on finding a way to at least contain Detroit’s high-octane offense. On Saturday, Dallas did a solid job of that, allowing only two goals in the 2-1 loss.

The Stars simply have to find a way to get more pucks to the net – much more than the 18 shots on goal they recorded in Game 2. It’s one of the key reasons why the Stars are going home down two games rather than up a pair for the first time this postseason.

“We took a step forward in getting ourselves back into the competitive issues of the series last game, but it will still have to go up another step,” Tippett said. “I thought we had much better jump. Our legs looked like they were back to normal a little bit. Now we need some more execution. This is a fine line we’re walking here.”

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