Nearly nine years to the day that Pittsburgh and Philadelphia played the NHL’s longest game in 73 years, a five-overtime thriller on May 4, 2000 that Philadelphia won, the Penguins and Flyers thrilled the 102nd consecutive sellout crowd at Mellon Arena by playing deep into the first overtime on Friday night.
Billy Guerin beat Martin Biron for his second goal of the night and gave the Penguins a 3-2 win, not to mention a 2-0 series lead.
Guerin’s 30thcareer playoff goal was also the first playoff overtime goal in his 17-year career. The goal, in essence, was the death-blow to a Flyer team that has struggled to find themselves in their last seven playoff meetings with Pittsburgh.
The Penguins have outscored the Flyers 27-12 in the last seven games these two teams have played in the postseason; Pittsburgh has won six of those seven games.
The win also prevented the Penguins from splitting the first two games of a playoff series at home since Montreal split the opening games in Pittsburgh in 1998.
For the Flyers to claw their way back into this series, they are going to need to do more than split games three and four in Philadelphia. The Flyers are going to need to play disciplined hockey, and limit their penalties.
Philadelphia has recorded 55 minutes of penalties in the first two games of this series. The Penguins, on the other hand, have only recorded 23 minutes of penalty time.
Penalties have been the undoing of Philadelphia, as it has been on the power play that the Penguins have altered the course of this series.
Sidney Crosby started the scoring in the first game of the series by registering a power play goal 4:41 into the first period. Pittsburgh went on to win game one 4-1; Philadelphia finished the game with three players in the penalty box in hopes of sending a message to Pittsburgh.
If physicality was the message Philadelphia was attempting to send, Pittsburgh got the memo.
The Penguins viciously out-hit the Flyers in game two, playing up-tempo, physical hockey, and imposing their will on the Flyers from the opening face-off.
Brooks Orpik led the charge for Pittsburgh, delivering crunching hit after crunching hit, as Pittsburgh beat the Flyers to loose pucks, worked the boards and won the battle in front of the net.
Ironically enough, in front of the net is where this series turned so heavily in favor of Pittsburgh.
Capitalizing on numerous Flyer penalties, Pittsburgh used the man advantage to steal game two right out from underneath Philadelphia.
With time ticking away in the third period, and Philadelphia clinging to a 2-1 lead, a Kris Letang shot from the point redirected off Evgeni Malkin’s leg to tie the score at two with less than four minutes remaining in regulation.
It was a power play goal.
As Pittsburgh continued to launch shot after shot at Martin Biron, Philadelphia continued to have trouble solving the rubix cube that is Marc-Andre Fleury.
Early in the third, Fleury made what will undoubtedly be the save of the playoffs.
As a Philadelphia worked the puck deep into the Pittsburgh zone, a rebound was banged off the pads of Fleury, and trickled to Jeff Carter, who was standing on the edge of the crease unattended.
With a wide-open net, and I can’t emphasize wide-open enough, Carter shoveled the puck towards the net. Fleury, in a last ditch effort, kicked out his right leg and made the save with the tip of his foot.
"You know Fleury's quick. He's got quick feet, and he kicked the leg out," Carter said in a low voice after the game.
The save of the playoffs prevented Philadelphia from taking a 3-1 lead and, in essence, deflated the morale of the Flyer bench.
To continue with how important play around the front of the net has been in this series, it was Billy Guerin’s second goal of the game in overtime, from just on the edge of the Flyer crease, that gave Pittsburgh a 3-2 win and a 2-0 series lead.
The goal, are you ready for this, was on the power play…a five-on-three power play none the less.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other playoff game since at least 1933 decided by a two-man advantage overtime goal came in 2003, when Tampa Bay beat Washington 4-3 on Vincent Lecavalier's goal 2:21 into the extra session.
Fleury, as he did last season, has been stellar thus far in the playoffs.
Fleury has stopped 64 of 67 Flyer shots so far, and has been nothing short of an enigma to the Philadelphia offense.
Behind big-time goaltending, and loads of young talent, the Penguins have quickly established themselves as the team to beat in the East under interim-coach Dan Bylsma; The Penguins win in game two improved their record under Bylsma to 20-3-4.
Philadelphia is going to need more than an influx of emotion that the sold-out home crowd will surely provide on Sunday. The Flyers are going to need to stay out of the penalty box, and attempt to gain position in front of the Penguins net.
Jeff Carter, who was second in the NHL in goals scored with 46, will need to register a point, something he has yet to do in this series, and Philadelphia is going to need to keep the younger, smaller Penguins from pushing them around.
Teams typically like to take something away from losses, a positive to build on for the next game. For the Flyers, the only solace they can take from this game is that they had Pittsburgh on the ropes late in regulation.
"It's disappointing, for sure," said Flyers captain Mike Richards. "We did all the right things tonight. Just a tough pill to swallow right now after how hard we worked and how it finished."
Philly is going to have to get over it quickly, as game three is looming Sunday afternoon.
Pittsburgh is playing with confidence, and when you have as much talent as the Penguins, this can spell danger for not only the Flyers, but the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia, on the other hand, is morally deflated after what should have been a series changing victory. It will be up to the locker-room-leaders of the Flyers to rally the troops for game three.
The Flyers showed they can play with Pittsburgh, but if they don’t limit the shots and scoring opportunities of the Penguins, Pittsburgh will not only run away with game three, they will bury the Flyers in their own backyard.