Martin Biron is a crybaby. Being at Mellon Arena for this game, I was able to see what they don't show you on television. Biron would frequently leave his net after a stoppage in play, sometimes skating all the way out to the blue-line to voice his opinion to the referee. Marty: stay in your net so the Penguins can continue to score goals on you, thanks.
This was the first playoff game I have been to since 2001. That being said, Sunday night was the wildest atmosphere I have ever experienced at a Penguins game, both inside and outside of the arena. 17,132 people filled the seats inside, while another 3,000 watched the game from the lawn, in the rain. That's dedication to your team. Something special is happening with this team, this city, and these fans. If you don't believe it, go and experience it for yourself.
The igloo erupted when the scratches for the game were announced prior to the dropping of the puck. Maxime Talbot was not among them, meaning he would be back in the lineup for the Pens after missing the previous three games with a broken foot.
Four minutes into the game, the bad blood between these two teams finally materialized into a fight. Tyler Kennedy dropped the mits with Scottie Upshall, and the Penguins' third line spark plug put on a good show, and energized the 17,000 fans in attendance.
The Flyers took five penalties (to the Penguins' three) during the first period, only one of which the Penguins were able to capitalize on. The Penguins took the lead just over the half way mark of the first period, on a Sidney Crosby power play goal in which he barely snuck the puck under the arm of Biron.
After the goal, the Penguins put their "fourth line" on the ice. I say "fourth line" because this line was the Penguins' best during this game, and looked, at times, like a first line. The Roberts-Talbot-Laraque line put on a puck-possession clinic, making the Flyers defensemen look like they belonged on the blue line for Bob Errey's pee wee hockey club.
At 16:41 of the first period, a Sergei Gonchar shot trickled behind Biron. Crosby raised his arms indicating that the Penguins had just scored. The crowd responded, but was letdown when the official waived the goal off.
Hockey is the only sport on planet Earth in which a play is reviewed in another country. The War Room was called, and after eleven minutes that felt like an eternity, the call would stand. No goal and the game would remain 1-0 heading into the first intermission. If this same play happens against the Flyers, in Philadelphia, we won't hear the end of it until next fall.
The Flyers had to feel pretty good about only trailing by one goal, after being completely outplayed during the first twenty minutes.
The second period got under way, and the Flyers looked like a different team. Their determination paid off when Jeff Carter scored on the power play to tie the game, 1-1.
The Flyers continued to press the attack, but Fleury stood his ground.
Finally, Marian Hossa was able to bang one home in front of the net on the power play, once again giving the Penguins the lead, 2-1. I thought Hossa disappeared in the playoffs? Hmm, guess not.
The lead, however, would be short-lived. On the power play once again, Evgeni Malkin carried the puck into the zone for the Penguins. Malkin lofted an ill-advised pass across the blue line, and it was intercepted by Mike Richards, who went the other way, one-on-one with the goalie.
Richards buried it, shorthanded, to once again tie the game, 2-2 at the end of the second period. Malkin banged his stick off the boards in frustration, but hey, even the best player in the league can make one mistake, right?
The third period brought a more physical nature to this game, for both teams. Bodies were flying and Biron was crying as time wound down, the game still in a deadlock.
The Penguins' fourth line once again dominated in the offensive zone, possessing the puck for nearly a minute, but they couldn't get a shot on this shift. Their next shift, however, would prove to be different.
Maxime Talbot made a diving play at the blue line to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Georges Laraque dumped the puck hard off the end boards. What would Gary Roberts do? Track down the puck, and send a smooth backhand pass in front of the net. Talbot's hard work paid off, as he took the pass from Roberts, and put it where grandma keeps the peanut butter: top shelf. 3-2 Penguins.
The Mellon Arena exploded. Talbot has become a fan-favorite in Pittsburgh, due to his off-ice antics that always tend to put a smile on the faces of his teammates and coaches, and his "balls to the wall" style of play on the ice. It only seemed fitting that he got the eventual game winning goal in this game.
The Penguins' defense locked down for the final eleven minutes of the game. The Flyers' struggled to even gain the offensive zone, let alone get a shot on the net. They did manage to put together one solid shift, but Fleury wasn't having anything to do with overtime, and kept the puck out of the net.
Speaking of warranted goals, Jordan Staal capped off the night with an empty-netter just under thirty seconds before the final horn. Staal has been a workhorse for the Penguins all season long. His defensive game has improved tenfold from his rookie campaign, and everyone loves to see a guy get rewarded on the score sheet for his efforts that don't show up there.
Elvis ran into Daniel Briere on his way out of the building. Briere had been there since Game One. The game ended, 4-2 Penguins. The Penguins take a 2-0 advantage in the series as they head cross-state for Game Three on Tuesday night in Philadelphia.
- Tyler Kennedy played hockey for nine minutes and fifteen seconds in this game. It was a more effective 9:15 than anything I have done for nine minutes in my entire life.
- Michel Therrien showed why he is, and has been since taking the reigns for the Pens, a players coach. He put his fourth line on the ice, late in a tied game, because they deserved to be out there.
- Ryan Whitney continues to disappoint defensively. Though there is a 99.9% chance that it won't happen, he needs to sit out a game, and let Darryl Sydor get some playing time.
- Ruutu's diving penalty in the third period, when Biron basically tried to remove his head from his shoulders, was a joke. Though the referees understandably didn't want to give the Penguins another power play, Ruutu took the hit from Biron, got up, skated away, took another shot from Briere, and skated away again. What in that series of events warrants an "even-up" call?
- A lot of teams would have been rattled after blowing two leads, and falling victim to a disallowed goal. The Penguins showed again that they aren't "a lot of teams."
- Biron = French Toast(ed)
-Game Three is Tuesday, 7:30 PM, on (sigh) VERSUS.
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