On Wednesday, the day after Marc-Andre Fleury stole a game on the Flyers' home ice, Marty Biron said this: "You never know who is going to step it up in the locker room. We always look around and say, well, 'I'm going to take it in my own hands.' It could be anyone in this locker room."
Biron then went on to list a few teammates. "Claude Giroux," he said, and, lo and behold, Giroux scored a goal last night. "Mike Knuble," he said, and Knuble iced this game with a third-period goal, his first of these playoffs. He missed on Arron Asham, whose second-period blast was the first and most important goal of the night, but Biron finished by saying this:
"Tomorrow, it's about getting that one guy who is going to have that performance. And I'm all for it being me."
Biron stopped 28 shots last night, recording his first playoff shutout since Game 2 in Washington last year. Compared to that unbelievable circus act, this one was somewhat pedestrian, at least after he survived Pittsburgh's 15-shot first period.
But the Flyers trailed only by a game when he stood on his head in Washington, and last night they were facing a summer of lament and uncertainty. A free agent, he was facing the possibility that his team would not want him anymore, a sentiment that fills the blogs and airwaves every time he surrenders more than a couple of goals, or goes through a regular-season slump.
Marty Biron is not Marty Brodeur. He's not Bernie Parent. But he's a very good NHL goalie and if he has proven nothing else, he has proven that the magnitude of a game often brings out the best in him.
"That was the message before the game," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "That we needed Marty to be great."
Think about that for a moment. Think about Andy Reid standing in a crowded locker room before a big game and saying, "We need Donovan to be great." Think about Charlie Manuel saying the same thing about that day's starting pitcher.
You better believe it.
"No, it's not that we need you to be great," said Stevens, clarifying what he said to Biron before the game. "But we need you to be great like you were last year in the playoffs when it made such a big difference. I think it's more of a reference point for him."
In truth, there has been plenty to reference in this series. Lost in the disappointing 3-2 overtime loss in Game 2 here was how close to stealing one Biron came. A penalty on Jeff Carter in the waning minutes allowed Pittsburgh to tie it. They scored the winner on a five-on-three, 18 1/2 minutes into overtime.
He had 46 saves over nearly four periods of hockey that night, one more than Fleury had on Tuesday. He did it in the other guy's building, just as he had in Washington last year. He outplayed Fleury in Game 3, and he outplayed him last night.
He is way down on the list of why the Flyers still trail this series.
He is the biggest reason they are still in this series, despite three games in which they scored two goals or fewer.
But Fleury is the flavor of this month, especially after that game the other night. And Biron's performance last night likely will be overlooked because he was required to stand on his head for only one period, not three.
"We spent way too much time in our own end," Stevens said.
It was an understatement. Evgeni Malkin had three shots in that period, all from close range, all after Flyers giveaways. Sidney Crosby was alone in the slot, too, and Biron stoned him, too. There also was some luck involved - Tyler Kennedy botched a wraparound into a wide open net, hitting the post - but Fleury's performance the other night wasn't all skill either.
Bottom line, after one period it was 0-0. And the Penguins had expended an awful lot of adrenaline. "With Marty playing like he did, he allowed us to regroup between periods," Stevens said. "He really gave us a shot of confidence that allowed us to get back to playing."
They go back to playing tomorrow afternoon at the Wachovia Center. They still trail in this series, but they have been the better team over the last three games. Not by much, not by more than a big save here, a hit post there. But this series is now close enough to steal, close enough that one man, one play, could ultimately decide it. That might frighten some goalies. If nothing else, Biron has proven he's not one of them. *
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