Once again, the Pens come out with the advantage on the scoreboard, with just a 1-0 lead. It was an interesting period, as we shall see.
The last thing the Flyers needed was another defenseman to go down with injury. Already missing Timonen, Braden Coburn was a big minute player, and one who could actually move the puck. Now they are down one more mobile defenseman when Coburn took a puck to the face. Hopefully Coburn will be able to return for the second period or this already thinning Flyers defense could be in some serious trouble, especially should the parade to the penalty box continue.
The Upshall/Kennedy dust-up was a feisty tussle that came out pretty even. The Flyers got a nice boost from it for just a few seconds. The Orange & Black were moving well in the first 5 minutes of the game and were on the more physical side as it seemed the Pens were still warming up and getting into things.
The Flyers got the benefit of the first power play and, like the last game, failed to do absolutely anything with it. In fact, like last time, they almost coughed up a goal. Pascal Dupuis made a nice move for the Pens and seemed to whiff just a bit on his shot, and Biron was able to stay focused enough to make the save. The Pens penalty kill continues to be aggressive and impressive. The Flyers had zero control down low in the offensive zone and that has to be corrected.
Penalties. I've discussed before how penalties will kill this Flyer team. The Pens just have too much power to tease them too often. Jeff Carter took an unnecessary tripping penalty in the neutral zone and the Flyers actually succeeded in killing that one off. But it was the additional penalty from Mike Knuble that did them in and led to Pittsburgh's goal.
If you want to call the Knuble crosscheck then by all means do so. But you have to call it across the board and you have to call it all night. The officials ignored the crosscheck that Staal put on the Flyer defensemen just seconds after Knuble crosschecked Staal. If one was a penalty then both should have been. Let's see how many of those standard top of the crease crosschecks get ignored by the refs the rest of the game.
So with Knuble sitting in the box, Sidney Crosby makes the Flyers pay. It wasn't a highlight reel goal but it was a goal none the less. A shot deflection off the Flyer defenseman (Kukkanen) found the patch of daylight that Marty Biron left by the post. Sorry, Marty, but you have to keep that skate flush against the post in those instances. It was a combination of Crosby good fortune and Biron poor position. Stay tight on the post.
The Crosby 2nd goal review? Sorry folks, but I think he had a goal there. However, I do think the review team made the right call. There was no conclusive shot from any review angle that showed a patch of white between the puck and the line. Without conclusive proof of a goal, you cannot call it a goal. I know, I know. Logic would dictate that Biron's glove being in the net would indicate that the puck was in the net, but the review process for counting a goal doesn't work that way. The Pens didn't catch the break on that one and it keeps the game just 1 goal apart.
The Flyers are still struggling against the Penguin defense to get the puck deep and to gain control and cycle. They're playing a good physical game throughout the zones but offensive pressure is still non-existent. They need to turn up the heat and, as I mentioned last game, they need to obscure Fleury's sightline. Thus far, no go in that department.
The Pens are being very patient and the Flyers are not yet playing a determined and attacking brand of hockey. Period Two is coming up. Will Coburn return? He can certainly help. Let's see how it plays out. See you for the Period Two wrap-up.
Another period that swung from one end to the other on the scale.
The Flyers finally gained some down low control on the power play. That would normally be a good thing, right? Well sure...if you'd shoot the damn puck! Bodies were placed in front of Fleury, as necessary, and the passing was fine, but it ended with no one taking any shots. Lupul got a great cross-ice pass and then held it for 3 seconds. More than enough time for Fleury to slide over and take up perfect position to make the save.
It would change on the next power play, though, when they showed exactly how it needs to be done. A pass from the corner out front to Jeff Carter and it goes right into the net. Bang Bang play. No holding the puck and looking for the shot.
Since that goal, the Flyers gained a clear boost. Their attitude seemed to be one of attack and so they took it to the Pens. No longer did the Pens seem to hold the upper hand in offensive pressure or chances.
And then: The Call.
The hooking call on Hatcher was complete bunk, and it gave the Pens the go ahead goal. Yes, Hatcher's stick went in between Malkin's legs, but Hatcher did not torque the stick and twist Malkin around. The two men were combating face-to-face, and Hatcher's hands were up into Malkin's chest. Malkin twisted and turned, which trapped Hatcher's stick between his legs. A hook? Hardly. Malkin's progress was impeded by Hatcher standing him up, not hooking him. That said, Hatcher's next penalty, the crosscheck to the head of the Pens forechecker, was absolutely legit. Good call.
The announcer going on about how the stick between the legs had to be called, and the issue of it being "the letter of the law" was also mindless justification for a pathetic call. Letter of the law? If all the "letter of the law" calls were made the whole game would be 3-on-3. Where was the letter of the law on Malkin's elbow to Briere's head? Where was the letter of the law on Briere's uncalled interference play? Lots of letter of the law plays go by the wayside, and I will contend that, no matter which team such a call was made on, any hooking call similar to the one on Hatcher is inappropriate.
The power play goal energized Pittsburgh and on yet another Pens power play, it looked like it was going to be another bad end for the Flyers in this period. And then came Mike Richards.
Superb timing and read of the cross ice pass at the blue line and off to the races. Fleury came out well and challenged the shot but Richards has to be given credit for sniping that top corner. That was a stellar shot.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Braden Coburn is done for the night and no word on if he will even play in Game Three. With only 5 defensemen now, Philly has to be careful not to get too pinned into their own zone in the third, and not to get too many more penalties.
Hey, let's throw out a few names here. Briere. Prospal. Umberger. Did these guys even dress? The Flyers could use a little bit of help from these guys. It would be nice if they showed up tonight. Even for a little bit.
As an aside, nice interview with Tom Glavine. It was top notch to hear him speaking so positively of the sport of hockey and how it doesn't get its due from the rest of the sports world.
Knotted at 2 now, let's see what pans out in what should be a hard-nosed third period battle.
For Flyer fans, there was not much positive about period three. It began well enough. Prospal and Briere showed up for one shift. Prospal made a sweet pass from the corner to Briere behind the net. Briere then darted to the front but Fleury was equal to the challenge and made a super save.
From then on, Prospal and Briere returned to obscurity.
It was nice seeing Biron get a little territorial. When Ruutu moved into his crease, positioning his left leg to disturb Biron, Biron responded by deciding Ruutu needed to eat some blocker. Good for him.
The Flyers were looking ragged the latter half of the period. Some of it had to do with being tired on the blueline, no doubt. Some of it had to be being down yet again to the Pens. What did the Flyers in, ultimately? Once again, it was an untimely turnover.
Steve Downie, inserted into the lineup for Thoreson, had not played a poor game until he coughed up the puck. Why he felt he needed to rush himself no one knows. He had plenty of time and was not being pressed. He tried to backhand the puck up out of the zone and flubbed it. Hatcher was put out of position by it and two Flyers were already in center waiting for the breakout to take effect. The Pens took over the puck and made the Flyers pay. The Flyers were defensively flustered and mispositioned just about everywhere. Talbot drove the knife in and Downie looked mighty dejected on his way to the bench. Simply put, that turnover cannot happen.
From that moment on, the Pens took charge with something that has been overlooked: their defense. They simply shut everything down. These guys on the blueline for Pittsburgh are getting none of the press as everyone focuses on Malkin, Crosby and Hossa, but they deserve major props for their play.
The Flyers hung in there as best they could. One big mistake doomed them to an 0-2 hole. Another thing they desperately needed but did not get were chances from the middle of the ice. Nearly everything they attempted came from the outside and with no traffic in front, just about any netminder worth his salt will make those saves. Those are low percentage shots and won't get you consistent goals to win games. For Game Three, the Flyers have to find a way to take it to the center of the ice, increase the frontage traffic, and get the puck on net.
And if I were John Stevens, Danny Briere would be getting an absolute earful from me right about now. He has vanished from the series in these two games and with some of his downright boneheaded plays he is lucky he has not made the team more shorthanded. For all of his gifts as an offensive talent, he is a dirty little punk who likes to cheap shot his way through games when he gets frustrated. He is very lucky he has not given Pittsburgh more powerplays and he better shape up before they finally do start pegging him for his misdeeds.
The Pens, again, not a great game from them. They still have not opened up their top game. Some of that is due to the Flyers playing them well but they have not, at all, dominated this series as many have expected.
A much better game by Philadelphia, easily. And yet they still end up on the downside of the scoreboard. Penalties and one mistake were the keys. Heading home down 0-2 is not at all ideal but it's what they have to deal with. Time now to shore it up and swing it home, re-focus, and find a way to fight back into it.