Couturier takes a cheap shot

Posted: April 16, 2012

WITH TIME winding down and the game out of reach, Sean Couturier poked at the puck near the boards and twirled to skate toward the Flyers bench for a line change.

He didn't make it back to the bench without the help of a trainer, as Penguins forward James Neal flattened the Flyers' high-flying rookie with a blindside hit.

"The puck wasn't even close, nowhere close," Jaromir Jagr said. "I thought it was kind of a dirty play."

Somehow, the Flyers made it through Game 3 relatively unscathed. The only players who didn't finish the game - Kimmo Timonen, Wayne Simmonds, Scott Hartnell and Zac Rinaldo - were out because of discipline and not injury.

The Flyers said they had no injuries to report postgame.

The hit on Couturier happened with 5:20 to play, yet he was able to return to the bench by 4:38, with all of the on-ice shenanigans giving him time to be seen by a doctor in just 43 seconds of actual game time.

"I feel good," Couturier said. "It's obviously frustrating to get hit like that. I mean, I never saw him coming."

Neal - who also scored two power-play goals - said the it was accidental and he "didn't mean to hit" Couturier, but he also tried to steamroll numerous other Flyers, including Claude Giroux on a shift in which a melee followed.

"It's hard to watch," coach Peter Laviolette said. "We've got a young player on the ice who's playing some great hockey. It's difficult to see that."

Brayden Schenn, who was drilled by Arron Asham with a cross-check in the first period after a big hit, also said he was fine. He played the remainder of the game. Asham received a match penalty, which requires an automatic review for possible suspension.

Might more discipline be coming from Brendan Shanahan? It has been a busy time in league headquarters. The Rangers' Carl Hagelin was suspended for three games on Sunday. Ottawa's Matt Carkner got a one-game ban.

"It's tough to say," Jagr said. "Let's let Mr. Shanahan decide what's going to happen."

Fleury yanked

After allowing more goals in the first three games of a playoff series than any goaltender in the league's 94-year history, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma decided he'd seen enough of Marc-Andre Fleury.

Wayne Simmonds' late second-period goal was the 17th allowed by Fleury, breaking Ron Hextall's record of 16 through the first three games against the Rangers in 1993-94, while Hextall was with the Islanders.

Backup Brent Johnson replaced Fleury to start the third period. It took just 27 seconds for the Flyers to welcome Johnson to the playoffs, as Claude Giroux beat him on his first shot faced.

It was a tough afternoon for Fleury, too, as he continued to fight himself in net. Fleury batted the Flyers' first goal into his own net - though Max Talbot was credited, since he touched it last.

"It just happened," Fleury explained. "I am not going to quit. I am just going to go out there and play hard and find our way back."

After the game, Bylsma made it clear that Fleury would be back in net for Game 4.

"The games have not come down to Marc-Andre Fleury's goaltending," Bylsma said. "[It's] mistakes we've made, situations we've put our team in. I know Marc-Andre is going to be the guy in net for the next four games."

The real Hulk

Turns out, it's easy to get an actor to flip loyalties to sports teams - it just depends on how much you pay him.

After doing a promotional bit for the Penguins earlier this year for "Malkamania," wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan got the 20,092 at the Wells Fargo Center back on their feet with a pumped-up video message on the big screen.

"Hey Flyer fans! This is the real Hulk Hogan," Hogan said. "I know you've been saying your prayers and eating your vitamins, but I've got one thing to say: Whatcha gonna do when Flyers mania runs wild on you?!?!"

Hogan, 58, has played a role in the Flyers-Penguins rivalry this season, as Penguins fan Cy Clark - a Hogan wannabe - taunted the Flyers in Pittsburgh on April 1 before Scott Hartnell gave him Hogan's "I can't hear you" motion.

This isn't Hogan's first rodeo in the Stanley Cup playoffs. His daughter, Brooke, sang the national anthem in Tampa Bay against the Flyers in 2004.

Hogan's rival, Ric "Nature Boy" Flair, was a big part of the Hurricanes' run to the Stanley Cup in 2006 - when Peter Laviolette was the coach - with his trademarked "Woooo" after every Carolina goal.

Slap shots

Hand-in-hand with Fleury's embarrassing record, the Flyers set a franchise record for most goals scored (20) in the first three games of a playoff series. The previous record was 17 against Minnesota in the 1980 semifinals. A new franchise record was also set for most goals in consecutive playoff games (16) . . . The last time the Flyers had three power-play goals in a game was April 20, 2000, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals . . . Danny Briere now has 101 points in 100 career playoff games. He collected three points in the first period alone on Sunday . . . Braydon Coburn skated a game-high 27:25 and led all players with six hits.


Contact Frank Seravalli at seravaf@phillynews.com

or on Twitter @DNFlyers.

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