In convincing fashion, the Flyers were able to finish off the Penguins with a 5-1 win at the Wells Fargo Center. It was the final win needed, and another that bucked the trends of each of the previous five matches.
In the series, home-ice advantage only won three of the six games, and five out of six times, scoring the first goal of the game seemed the kiss of death. Finally, in game six, the Flyers took the ice, led by their regular season point leader Claude Giroux, scored the first goal in front of the home crowd, and went on to win the game.
When asked about the play of his star center, Flyer’s coach Peter Laviolette, said, “His game tonight was monstrous. It really was.”
Laviolette went on to discuss Giroux’s determination in this game, and how he approached the coach beforehand stating he’d like to start the game on the ice.
In Giroux’s first shift of the game, he laid a brutal check on the Pens captain Sidney Crosby, and went on to score an unassisted goal on the first shot of the game, just 32-seconds in. It set the tone for the rest of the game.
The Flyer’s All Star went on to have a brilliant game with a goal, 2-assists, 2-blocked shots and a plus-2 rating. Other members of the Flyers commented on Giroux being dialed in, and playing with the necessary desperation to complete this series.
But the win couldn’t be attributed to just the play of Giroux. Every player in orange played with the same kind of passion, blocking an amazing 40-shots total for the night and throwing 32-hits, as the Pens outshot the Flyers 31-23.
Rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson, had 22:09 of ice-time, and scored his first playoff goal in only his second NHL playoff game. The young point-man didn’t stop with the goal, he also led the team with 7-blocked shots and finished with a plus-3 rating, good enough to be named the second star of the night.
The third and final star of the night, went to Flyers’ netminder, Ilya Bryzgalov who stopped 30-of-31 shots faced, and had what many believed to be his best game of the playoffs. He had a few testers on the night, including some in close shots from the NHL’s regular season points leader Evgeni Malkin, but he was up to the task, and the Flyers’ defense kept the porch clear, as well as cleared out most second chances.
Laviolette said, “I thought today was probably our best team game.”
It was a strong all-around performance for the Flyers who came out shooting, and didn’t stop until the buzzer sounded to end the third period. They deserved this solid win after a series that saw everything from a 3-goal deficit erased and a 3-0 series lead followed by a 10-3 blowout. If the orange and black hadn’t found their desperation, the Pens could have been only the fourth NHL team in history to overcome being down 3-games to win a series.
“It takes a sixty minute, full team effort,” said Bryzgalov. “Everybody chipped in. It was do or die for us. If you want to win, you have to sacrifice yourself by blocking shots and bypassing plays. Do whatever is necessary. Do whatever it takes to protect the net. That is how you win the games. Sometimes if you get loose, the puck might end up in your net. It is so important to be sharp and everyone sacrifices themselves for winning the game. There is no big prize for winning this game, it is the price you have to pay.”
The Flyers will have at least a short break before their second round opponent is named, as they’re the first Eastern Conference team to clinch their series.
The regular season first and second seeded teams, the Rangers and Bruins respectably, are struggling with the Senators and Capitals. Right now, both of the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference are down 3-2 in their series. This scenario could paint a good picture for the Flyers in the second round. If the top teams are picked off, they would wind up with home-ice advantage in the next round. This is reminiscent of two-years-ago when the Canadiens knocked of the first- and second-seeded Caps and Pens, giving the Flyers and easier road to the Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks.
The break will also give the Flyers time to rest their injury plagued defense, which has several key members out with issues, Andrej Meszaros (back-surgery), Nik Grossmann (concussion), and Marc-Andre Bourdon (concussion), as well as both Pavel Kubina and Kimmo Timonen playing in some pain.
Either way, they’ve earned a break, and a chance to celebrate their fine play, whoever they’ll face in the second round.