PHILADLEPHIA – The Penguins are not going down without a fight. They’re not going quietly into that good night.
The Penguins dressing room has too much pride and character to quit and let their most hated rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, walk away with a sweep in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
So it should come as no surprise that Pittsburgh not only avoided elimination in Game 4 in Philadelphia’s unwelcoming Wells Fargo Center, but did so with a completely defiant and dominant 10-3 victory to force a Game 5 in Pittsburgh Friday night.
“It’s one win. We came here today to stay alive,” captain Sidney Crosby
said. “It was a good effort by everyone and we’ll continue in Pittsburgh.”
Over 20-thousand fans packed Wells Fargo Center clad in orange hoping to see a handshake at the end of the 60-minute tilt. Instead the stunned crowd, which mockingly chanted “you can’t beat us” at the end of Game 3, left having witnessed a resurgent Penguins team tie franchise postseason records with 10 goals (coincidently also achieved against Philadelphia, April 25, 1989) and four power-play goals (April 30, 2010 vs. Montreal; April 29, 1992 vs. Washington).
They also observed a Jordan Staal
hat trick, three-point games by Evgeni Malkin
(2G-1A), Crosby (1G-2A) and Steve Sullivan
(1G-2A), and a stifling defense that shut down the Philadelphia offense in the final 44 minutes of play.
“Everyone stepped up. We needed that,” Sullivan said. “That’s what we talked about before the game, everyone had better to give and everyone needed to step up. It wasn’t just the core players. It was everybody. Tonight was definitely a group effort.”
The Penguins’ offensive surplus came even though 40-goal scorer James Neal
(suspension) wasn’t in the lineup. In fact, Pittsburgh was handicapped in the contest with four regulars not playing. Joining Neal were Craig Adams
(suspension), Arron Asham
(suspension) and Paul Martin
Missing four key players and still reeling from losing the first three games due to uncharacteristic mistakes, many people considered the Penguins finished in the series. But this is kind of adversity that brings out the best in this team.
The Penguins were much improved in several areas of their game. They managed the puck better, limited their turnovers and didn’t allow the Flyers’ offense, which scored 20 goals in the first three games, to generate any flow.
Most importantly, they kept their composure. In a game where the referees were calling a lot of penalties, Pittsburgh adapted and stayed disciplined. The Flyers didn’t have a power play in the final two periods of the game – and not coincidently didn’t score in the final two periods of the game either. The final result of the Penguins' efforts was seen on the scoreboard.
“We had a task tonight, which was to win one game. We got a win,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We’ve earned one more game.”
“It’s only one win,” Staal said. “It’s a race to four. It doesn’t matter how you get there. We’re going to have to try to win four games and we’ll take it one game at a time.”
Before Game 4, Bylsma was asked about his team’s mood. He responded: “We’re ready to be at our best tonight.”
The Penguins must be at their best every time they step on the ice. Having left themselves no room for error, the Penguins will have to fight, scrape, claw and battle their way out of the first round. And the next stage takes place Friday in Game 5 at CONSOL Energy Center.
“We expect the next one to be tougher. It doesn’t get any easier from here,” Crosby said. “We did a good job of hanging in there and we expect the same effort from ourselves (in Game 5). We know they’ll be hungry to finish things off too. It doesn’t get any easier.”
“It’s still 3-1 for the Flyers,” Bylsma said. “We have one game to win on Friday. That’s got to be the focus. It can’t be about momentum or what happened in this game. We have to worry about one game only, which is Friday.”