Penguins come alive to rout Flyers, avoid elimination

Posted: April 19, 2012

WHEN THE LIGHTS dimmed and the Flyers limped to their locker room after the second period, unmistakable boos rained down from the rafters inside the Wells Fargo Center.

This time, for the first time all series, they were not for Sidney Crosby - or the striped officials assigned to this asylum.

The Bronx cheers were instead directed at the hometown team, which skated on a golden opportunity to close out the Golden Boy and his Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.

The brooms were safely back in the closet before the third period even started, as the Flyers stunk out the joint with a 10-3 shellacking at the hands of the wounded Penguins, who were without the services of four players because of suspension and injury.

Game 4 proved that this Eastern Conference quarterfinal death match is one of the most even, yet lopsided 3-to-1 series in recent NHL memory.

After the game, the crowd heading to the parking lots wondering if the Flyers had awakened a sleeping giant, one that seemed near death just 24 hours prior.

Jordan Staal netted a hat trick, league-leading scorer Evgeni Malkin scored his first goals of the series and Crosby collected three points.

"We're going to find out what kind of team we have," the Flyers' Jaromir Jagr said. "If we are the good team that we think we are, then we have to respond next game."

Pittsburgh's margin for error is razor-thin, as the series shifts to Consol Energy Center for Game 5 on Friday night. The Flyers are 7-1-0 in that building since it opened on Oct. 6, 2010.

On Wednesday, the Flyers largely conceded their chance to sweep Pittsburgh when Ilya Bryzgalov was yanked after allowing his fifth goal on 18 shots just 3:07 into the second period. It was Peter Laviolette's first goaltending change in the playoffs since inventing a ridiculous, three-man goaltending circus in the first round last year, when he swapped Brian Boucher, Sergei Bobrovsky and Michael Leighton at will.

For the record, Leighton was in the building on Wednesday night.

Sergei Bobrovsky entered and stopped only 13 of 18 shots as the Penguins scored three more times in the second period alone to take a 9-3 choke hold heading into the third period.

Amazingly, Bryzgalov can still clinch a second-round berth for the Flyers despite carrying a 4.97 goals-against average and .844 save percentage into Game 5. If the series would have ended on Wednesday, it would have set a new NHL record for most goals scored between teams in a four-game playoff series.

At the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury - the man who entered the game with a 6.34 goals-against average - regained a semblance of confidence with his first win of the series.

In the drubbing, the Flyers tied a dubious franchise record for most goals allowed in a single playoff game, also set against Pittsburgh in 1989 with a 10-7 loss.

That one, at least, was a little close. The Flyers weren't even with a touchdown and an extra point of eliminating the Penguins, who avoided being swept for the first time in 33 years.

Now, with a win under their belt, the heavily favored Penguins will get two of their suspended players - including 40-goal scorer James Neal and penalty-killing ace Craig Adams back for Game 5.

With Neal and Adams returning, the Flyers may have a trick of their own up their sleeve. James van Riemsdyk, out since March 1 with a fractured left foot, said on Tuesday he could have played in Game 4 if called upon. Friday might be the time to break out last spring's can't-miss playoff star.

Unbelievably, Fleury wasn't much better for the Penguins than Bryzgalov at the beginning of the game. And it all started well for the Flyers - who scored the game's first goal and led twice in the first period.

In this series, though, the team that has scored first goal has lost all four times.

The Flyers scored three power-play goals in the first period to take a 3-2 lead. But Pittsburgh peppered Bryzgalov with shots, scoring eight unanswered goals.

With more empty seats than people for the bulk of the final period, the Wells Fargo Center was as quiet as the Penguins and Flyers' fists were for much of the game.

Zac Rinaldo added to the series' idiocy with a hit on Zbynek Michalek that garnered him a game misconduct and a possible review from league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.

But the Flyers and Penguins were too uninterested to trade blows, saving all of their energy for a tell-all Game 5.

"There was a lesson to be learned," Kimmo Timonen said. "It was embarrassing. I don't know if maybe we thought it was going to be easy, but there are no easy games in the playoffs. The good thing about the playoffs is that you can move on quickly."

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

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