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Notebook: Pens Find Game 1 Success

by Joe Sager / Pittsburgh Penguins

So far this season, the Penguins have won the first game in each series they have played.

The Flyers have lost them all.

The Penguins used a three-goal rush to overcome a 2-1 deficit to post a 4-2 win Friday night at Mellon Arena in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Pittsburgh got off to a great start as Petr Sykora roofed a goal past Martin Biron 6:19 into the game.

However, Philadelphia retaliated as Mike Richards scored 2:11 later and added a second goal 4:20 after that to give the Flyers a 2-1 advantage late in the first.

The quick-strike Penguins responded with a Sidney Crosby redirection and an Evgeni Malkin wrister to grab a 3-2 lead at the buzzer. Malkin blasted another shot past Biron in the second for the 4-2 advantage.

“They really surprised us with the way they played in the first. We made too many mistakes and we’re not used to making those mistakes. With that team, they have three lines where anybody can score,” Sykora said. “We didn’t play our tight, checking defensive game in the first and it kind of bit us. We came back out in the second and played our system and it worked for us and we got back to the game.”

The Penguins moved to 9-1 in the postseason, including 6-0 on home ice – a franchise record. They have won 14-straight home games and are 15-0-2 in their last 17 home contests. Their last home loss came nearly three months ago – Feb. 24 against San Jose in a shootout, 2-1.

“I can’t say enough how big getting the win in the first game is even though [the Flyers] lost both first games when they beat Washington and Montreal,” Sykora said. “But, it’s a huge first game and you want to get that first win and relax a little bit and get focused for the second game. Every time you win that first game, it’s a good confidence boost. Coming back from being down 2-1, it’s a big boost for us.”

HARD HITTERS

The Penguins and Flyers engaged in plenty of physical play in their eight regular-season meetings.

Friday’s game was no different. While no fights broke out, there were plenty of big hits.

“Well, if there is one aspect of our game, it’s a physical game. We came out to bounce back with it all season long,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “We’ve got a lot of character players in this dressing room. They gave us some good hits and we gave them some pretty good hits, too. Even like probably one of the best hits was Malkin on Coburn, and that shows just the character of the players.”

BABY PENS FINISH OFF PHANTOMS

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton secured a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night by defeating the Philadelphia Phantoms, 3-1, at the Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza. With the win, the Baby Penguins claimed the East Division playoff crown in five games over their intrastate rivals.

 

The Baby Penguins will take on the Portland Pirates, who posted a 5-4 win in Providence on Friday night to upset the Bruins in the Atlantic Division Final, four games to two.  Providence posted the top regular season record in the AHL this season, while Portland finished third in the Atlantic Division.

 

The series, which will follow a 2-3-2 format, will open in Wilkes-Barre with Games 1 and 2 slated for Wednesday and Thursday. 

 

This is the first time the Baby Penguins have advanced to the third round of the Calder Cup Playoffs since the 2004 postseason, when the team defeated the Hartford Wolf Pack in seven games to advance to the Calder Cup Finals.

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