As the old saying goes, "Part of being good is being lucky."
After a horribly embarrassing and mostly unlucky Game One in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Philadelphia Flyers knew they had to play completely different in Game Two—and hopefully create some good luck—if they hoped to even the series.
They were successful in almost every aspect of Friday night's game, but still came up a bit short on the score sheet. In the end, the Penguins capitalized on their opportunities once again, while the Flyers didn't.
About halfway through the third period, I remember thinking that if the Flyers held on to win the game, they should consider themselves very lucky. At that point, they held a slim 2-1 lead, but Pittsburgh was still creating an incredible amount of scoring chances, and the shot total (save for the first period) reflected that.
Turns out, the lucky ones were on the other bench. Two deflections off of a Sergei Gonchar point slapshot resulted in Evgeni Malkin "scoring" the game-tying goal. Then, late in the overtime, Mike Knuble idiotically decided to take a cross-checking penalty while on the power play, and Claude Giroux accidentally broke Kris Letang's stick after he "slashed" him, resulting in a five-on-three for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Of course, they scored with this advantage.
I'd say that the officials called everything in overtime fairly. Hal Gill clearly was guilty of a cross-check on Daniel Briere, but the Flyers decided they'd rather waste the opportunity instead of cashing in on it. Mike Knuble's cross-check was also a fair (can't quite bring myself to say "good") call but easily the dumbest penalty the Flyers have taken in this series so far.
So far...there are still at least two more games for them to go completely off the deep end with stupid mistakes.
What I didn't like about the officiating on Friday was that Giroux's stick-breaking "slash" occurred while he was trying to play the puck, yet the officials were handcuffed into making the call.
The rulebook states that if a stick is broken by the opponent's stick, it is a mandatory penalty. Yet another downfall of the rules created to increase scoring; Bettman strikes again.
All of the positives the Flyers had going for them for the first 70-plus minutes of the game went to waste in the last 120 seconds. For the record, I really didn't like the Jeff Carter hooking call that led to the game-tying power play, but it was definitely more of a hook than Aaron Asham's "hook" that led to the first goal of the series.
Speaking of Carter, his bad luck was perhaps the worst. He found himself with a wide-open net after Marc-Andre Fleury gave up a juicy rebound to his right. Carter is a right-handed shot and was in perfect position to scoop it in to give the Flyers a 3-1 cushion and put the game pretty much in the bag. Unfortunately, what actually happened was nothing short of unbelievable.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a "slam dunk" based on the location and speed Carter was closing at, but nine times out of 10, he makes the flip and scores a goal.
Well, I guess last night was the tenth time. Carter slid the puck towards the goal flat on the ice, and Fleury was just able to get his toe on it. No goal, and the score remained 2-1.
The Penguins didn't win solely on luck; they played a really tough game. Overall, they probably deserved to win, despite the strong effort from the orange and black.
Early in the first period, I got the feeling that it was going to be a long night for the Flyers, as the Penguins dominated the physical play along the boards. A rare penalty was the Pens' only flaw in the first period, and for once, the Flyers actually took advantage.
Excellent passing set up Pittsburgh's first goal in the second period, as Malkin and Crosby went back-and-forth on a three-on-two before finding the odd man on the left wing, Bill Guerin, who slapped it home. Guerin also threaded a wrister through Marty Biron (incredibly, the 49th shot on goal for the Penguins) in overtime for the winner.
So, what positives can the Flyers take from this demoralizing defeat?
- At least it wasn't a five-overtime loss.
- Darroll Powe's line generated a surprising amount of pressure, and Powe scored his first career playoff goal.
- Mike Richards spent just slightly less time on the ice than Evgeni Malkin and only slightly more than Sidney Crosby. John Stevens was able to rotate the lines a few times throughout the game.
- Marty Biron played well again (I still don't blame anything from Game One on him).
- Despite some black-and-blue from all the physical play, no one was injured, and the roster should remain the same for game three.
One final note: Even in a losing effort, I was excited to see that the Flyers were actually in the game, unlike in the first contest of the series. The players were allowed to be more physical, which is always fun to watch.
Flyers commentator Jim Jackson credited this to the veteran officiating crew, who are more accustomed to physically-driven Playoff hockey. Hopefully, the rest of the series is just as entertaining but better for Philly fans in the scoreboard department.