It was pretty brutal, but the seeds of change were planted in Game 4. The end was a blowout and most the Flyers players didn't try as they were getting blown out, but Fleury "only" gave up 3 power play goals, none in the final two frames.
Fast forward to game 5, and it was more of the same. The Pens battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 holes to take a 3-2 lead on the visiting Flyers. Fleury, who only saw 12 shots up to the middle of the 3rd period was then called upon. And he answered, stopping 14 shots in a Philly barrage.
One game at a time.
Some more thoughts:
-Can't say enough about Jordan Staal. A goal and an assist tonight, he's everywhere and doing everything for the Pens. With 6 goals, he's the NHL's scoring leader in that category, and there's zero forwards in the league playing better than big #11 right now. -Same for Tyler Kennedy, who always elevates his play this time of the year. He's a target for a lot of Pens fan for his decision making and ability (and it's hard to argue either point), but his hustle and desire seem to be rewarded this time of year. -The Pens took five penalties. And while the refeering, as always, was a little funny as to what was called (and what EACH team got away with), as a player you can't make it easy for the ref. Evgeni Malkin hitting Sean Couturier a step before the puck, easy call. Kennedy breaking his stick over pest Scott Hartnell, easy call. Craig Adams breaking his own stick slashing a Flyer stick, easy call. Pens have to do better with their emotions and keep Philly off the PP. -And the reason is, the Flyers have a really, really lethal power play right now. They haven't scored an even strength (or short-handed!! /faux cheer) in two whole games. Yet with a big time PP, they were in this game until the final second. So yeah, let's keep 'em off the man advantage, eh boys? -Rough game for Sidney Crosby, he got hit up high by Malkin unexpectedly and seemed to favor a leg after diving to hit in a loose puck near the net. 87 kept on ticking, but nervous time for the fans. -The Pens coaches have seemed to find a wrinkle that worked on the Flyers- they're using long stretch passes from the defense, then a chip to a player with speed. It's something they've practiced, but haven utilized it with much success until this point. Now it's working, it's catching the Flyers off guard and opening up some space for Pens forwards to get into the zone with speed. Once that happens, they usually can get an odd man rush on Ilya Bryzgalov. -As for Mr. Universe, he played better than the past debacle of game 4, but still looking relatively slow and shaky early in the game, especially in side-to-side movement like on the Steve Sullivan goal.
In a lot of ways, this one is going to hurt Philadelphia's pysche a lot more than Game 4 did. (See Claude Giroux acting like a baby and smashing his stick over the cross bar at the game's conclusion). Anyone can excuse a beatdown- "hey we didn't show up", "oh, guess we relaxed and it got away from us", "just one game, we'll play our best game next time", and on and on. But to go down in a close game, to blow the lead 2 times, well that will draw some doubts as to just how you're gonna put a team away.Let's see how it goes. Game 6 is Sunday. In Philly, where they'll be wound tighter than a snare drum. A few big early shots early and this series could get broken open and back to Consol for a finale game.
But it's going to take the same kind of effort we've seen the last two games, especially from the guy in the net, for Pittsburgh to have that chance.