Ok, let's get this out of the way...WOOOO! It was a rollercoaster ride. A tribute to the Flyers, they came out in Game 2 more disciplined, more focused and had obviously made coaching adjustments to keep them in better postion to compete in this one. But thanks to Evgeni Malkin, Bill Guerin and some unreal saves by Marc-Andre Fleury, the Pens overcame all of that and protected home ice.
Scoring wise, here's your recap:
--Scott Hartnell (a player when he's against you that you hate but also have to hate to give props to) got on the board first on the power-play. Matt Carle, a defenseman who's having himself a series, took the intial shot and Hartnell--in his usual position right in front of the net--got the perfect tip and there was nothing Fleury could do. Picture perfect power play goal seven seconds in thanks to Jeff Carter winning an offensive draw cleanly against Max Talbot.
--That lead would stand for a while until Dan Byslma shuffled Evgeni Malkin up to a line with Sidney Crosby and Bill Guerin. Crosby plays it to Malkin on the rush and Geno made a sublime pass. Instead of throwing it through the normal passing lane, Malkin anticipated the Flyer defenseman getting there and passed it in between the body and stick. It ended up perfectly on Guerin's stick and he made no mistakes putting it by Biron. Now we're 1-1 after two periods.
--Just into the third period, Flyer winger Darroll Powe (up a line thanks to the suspension to Daniel Carcillo) took a wrister that beat Fleury. It wasn't what you'd really classify as a "weak goal" but all things considered it would be one that Fleury would want back in hindsight.
--To make amends, Fleury buckled down and shut the door from that point on, including an absolutely fantastic point blank save on Jeff Carter (2nd leading goal scorer in the league) from from right in front when Carter had the most of a full net to slam it in. Game changer.
--With just over four minutes to go in the game, Carter took an ill advised hooking penalty to put the Pens on the PP. Kris Letang ripped a shot to the net with Malkin and Guerin in front. The puck glances off Malkin's knee and it's a tie game, bring on the OT.
--Shots in OT were 11-10, it was even and back and forth. Then Mike Knuble took a cross-check (hard for the refs not to call) and on the ensuing PK Flyers rookie Claude Giroux used his stick to slash a Penguins' stick in two (impossible not to call). Sergei Gonchar, Malkin and Crosby worked it around until the Sarge found Guerin in front and Billy G buries it. Game, Penguins.
Now, some assorted thoughts:
- Martin Biron takes his lumps around here, but give him props he did his part to hold the Flyers in with 46 saves on 49 shots, earning him a deserved third star of the game. Biron did what he could, but when the opportunities pile up (as they will after 49 shots) it's hard to expect the Pens won't get at least three by him.
- For his part MAF matched Biron step for step and had several spectacular saves you'd have to see to believe.
- The Penguins defense was there in front of him as well, blocking a combined 15 shots (led by Hal Gill and Mark Eaton's 4 a piece). The Flyers D tried to do their part too,
- Hits, a subject stat to be sure, went 50-29 for the Pens. Brooks Orpik was credited with 14 alone. Wowzers.
- Petr Sykora, as we say in my house, as apparantely forgotten how to play hockey. He just looks like a ghost out there. Pure goal scorers are streaky beasts, but it's clear the Sykora just doesn't have "it" anymore. But with such a solid player, obviously he's going to put his game together sooner or later and the Pens will be better off for it. It'll just be a lot better for the Pens (and his linemate Malkin) if it's sooner than later.
As a closing thought: I think you have to give credit to the Flyers for playing a lot better in game two than they did in game one. They made adjustments and had a better showing--even if the penalty trouble they got in during OT cost them.
It's easy to see what the Flyers message before next game will be: we had a good game, we competed and could have stolen a game in Pittsburgh. Now the series shifts back to Philly for their rabid fans to give some energy to the Flyers. "All" the Flyers have to do is win their two home games and they're in the same position coming back to Pittsburgh. That will be easier said than done, of course.
As Barry Melrose likes to say (though I don't agree) a series doesn't get interesting until the home team loses a game...And to this point, that hasn't happened, so we'll see what happens..Statistically if you win first two games of a series in the NHL, you win 89% of the time. But stats alone aren't going to beat the Flyers, it'll have to be two more great efforts by the Penguins.
2 WINS DOWN, 14 TO GO!
[By the way, if you're donating with the Pensburgh charity initiative for goals scored, the current balance from Game 1 was $2.13. Add tonight's goal scorers: 13 + 71 + 13 and we're up to a total of $3.10. The "official" Pensburgh cause is for my buddy Eric's beard-a-thon (new picture after every win). Though we definitely support any money for charity, specifically for the Mario Lemieux Foundation]