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Pens Comeback Bid Falls Short

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania – The Penguins gave a valiant effort in an attempt to repeat NHL history in their opening round series against heated-rival Philadelphia after falling behind 3-0.

But despite victories in Games 4 and 5, the Penguins came up short. Pittsburgh fell to the Flyers, 5-1, in Game 6 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia Sunday afternoon to officially end the 2011-12 season.

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“We get a tough series like that and put ourselves in a big hole. We pretty much had to play perfect hockey to get back in the series,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We did a pretty good job until today. We had a few bounces that didn’t go our way today. We played much better, but when you put yourself down 3-0 it’s pretty tough to get back in.”

“We dug ourselves a big hole going down 3-0,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “Doing that against a team as good as them is a tough hole to dig out of.”

The Flyers skated out to an early lead in Game 6 when Claude Giroux, who finished with a series-high 14 points, scored just 32 seconds into the game.

The Flyers increased their lead to 2-0 on Scott Hartnell’s power-play goal at 13:01 of the first period, the 12th man-advantage goal for Philadelphia in the six-game series. Despite the early deficit, the Penguins did not give up.

“I didn’t sense a bend or a break in the team,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “In this series I didn’t sense that from our team at all. Down 3-0 we battled in (Games) 4 and 5. I still think we battle after (Giroux’s) goal and even their power-play goal to be 2-0. I still sensed our team was fighting. They had the resiliency to come back in that game.”

Philadelphia would stake out a 3-0 lead before the Penguins finally struck with a goal. Rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson scored his first career playoff goal in the second period, followed by Evgeni Malkin’s third goal of the postseason to make it a 3-1 game.

However, the momentum went full in favor of the Flyers following Daniel Briere’s fluky goal halfway through the second period to give Philadelphia a 4-1 advantage. Briere’s shot was stopped by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury a lie dangerously in the crease. When Fleury rested on the ice, he bumped the puck just over the goal line.

The Flyers added an empty-net goal by Brayden Schenn in the closing seconds of the game to finish off the scoring.

“We made it 3-1 and I felt like we had some momentum. Then they were able to get that fourth one,” Crosby said. “We knew we had to keep battling. We did that. It was just too big of a lead.”

The Penguins certainly had a chance to make some noise in this series. But looking back, losing leads in Games 1 and 2 proved to be too costly. Pittsburgh had a 3-0 lead (Game 1) and 3-1 lead (Game 2) but eventually lost both games at home.

“Those first couple at home, we had a couple leads and didn’t win those games,” Crosby said. “It came back to hurt us here.”

“Game 1, in particular, and Game 2 as well, we had the lead,” Bylsma said. “Up 3-0 in (Game 1). I’ll spend a lot of time thinking about that.”

The Penguins tried to become the fourth team in NHL history to comeback from a 3-0 deficit in a seven-game series. But the uncharacteristic mistakes from the opening three games were just too much to overcome.

“It’s stuff that you can’t take back. You can’t change the outcome of the first three games,” Orpik said. “If we played really well for three games and were down 3-0 it would have been easier to swallow. When you look back at a number of things you could have done better, that is what’s hard to accept.”

And anytime a team’s season comes to an end, it leaves a stinging feeling.

“It’s not a good feeling,” Crosby said, “but we have to find some way to learn from this and be better for it.”

“It’s ever easy to take. It’s not a good feeling,” added Jordan Staal, who led the team with six playoff goals. “The guys will remember this feeling. Hopefully, we can take something positive out of it and do something next year.”

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