Flyers roll over Penguins to control series

Posted: April 14, 2012

PITTSBURGH - With less than 13 minutes to play in Game 2 and white towels waving furiously from the largest crowd ever to watch a hockey game at the Consol Energy Center, Philadelphia's favorite mythical character, Rocky Balboa, was featured on the scoreboard that hangs over center ice.

"It ain't about how hard you hit," Balboa said. "It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward."

For this Flyers team, there is no punch too powerful.

On Friday night, the Flyers repeatedly absorbed Pittsburgh's biggest blow. Each successive punch - and goal - was supposed to be bigger than the previous. The Flyers never recoiled.

Behind amazing hat tricks from Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux, the Flyers rallied - again - from deficits of 2-0, 3-1, 4-3, and 5-4, to win, 8-5, a staggering three-goal cushion. Jaromir Jagr finally put the Flyers in front for good with the game-winner in an exhausting, everything-on-the-ice effort.

Somehow, the heavy underdog Flyers packed up and left Pittsburgh with a shocking series lead of two games to none in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal prize fight.

Couturier, who scored just 13 goals all season, led the way for the Flyers with the team's first playoff hat trick by a rookie since Andy Delmore on May 7, 2000. It was Giroux's first career hat trick in the playoffs or regular season. Giroux's six points are a Flyers playoff record for one game.

As the series shifts back across the commonwealth for Game 3 on Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia, it will do so with Couturier leading the player he's shadowing - the league's top scorer in Evgeni Malkin - in both points and goals.

"If he wouldn't score any goals, I would say he would have a great game," Jagr said of the Flyers' star rookie. "He played great defense and also scored three goals. I don't know if I could find the words to describe his game. Awesome, maybe, but he was something better than that."

Game 2 featured just about everything - from highlight-reel saves, to momentum-swinging penalty kills, to bone-crunching hits, to the 13 collective goals.

Ilya Bryzgalov let in five goals, yet he was hardly an issue as his key glove save on Kris Letang in the first period kept the Flyers in the game.

The only thing missing was an overtime script.

Amazingly, the Flyers lead a series by two games in which they have led during the 122 minutes, 23 seconds of action for just 10:48. Jake Voracek's Game 1 overtime marker was the Flyers' only lead in Game 1. Unlike the Penguins, the Flyers protected their scant edge like a rare, national treasure.

"Maybe in junior [hockey]," Couturier shrugged when asked if had ever experienced a game like Friday night's. "It's different. More intense here. A lot more emotions. It means a lot more, too."

Despite allowing two power-play tallies to Chris Kunitz, the Flyers countered with two shorthanded goals of their own, making their parade to the penalty box a little easier to swallow. Max Talbot and Giroux accounted for the shorthanded tallies, the first time that's happened in a playoff game since April 26, 1997.

Game 2 started just as ugly as Game 1 for the Flyers. Sidney Crosby (who else?) threw the first jab before "home of the brave" left the national anthem singer's lips.

As strong as Giroux was on the puck, Couturier was a key difference-maker for the Flyers. Not only did he hold Malkin to two points in the first two games, he scored two goals in a span of 68 seconds wrapped around the second intermission in response to two Pittsburgh punches. When he scored with 2.8 seconds left in the second period, he said he didn't even know how much time was on the clock.

"It feels good," Couturier said. "It's kind of a bonus. I'm just trying to limit his offense."


Contact Frank Seravalli at seravaf@phillynews.com or @DNFlyers on Twitter. Read his blog, Frequent Flyers, at www.philly.com/frequentflyers.

 

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