Pittsburgh-Philadelphia: Biron Stymies Penguins, Fourth-Liners Shine

jonathan staub@JStaubSportTalkCorrespondent IApril 24, 2009

PITTSBURGH - APRIL 23:  Claude Giroux #28 of the Philadelphia Flyers congratulates teammate Martin Biron #43 after shutting out the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs  on April 23, 2009 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.(Photo By Dave Sandford/ Getty Images)

Last night the 110th consecutive sell-out crowd at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh watched their beloved Penguins get beaten, bruised and embarrassed by their arch-rivals the Philadelphia Flyers.

Martin Biron must have been humming “anything you can do I can do better, I can do anything better than you!”in his head while staring at Marc-Andre Fleury from the opposite end of the ice.

Fleury, who had been absolutely masterful in game four, stopping 45 of 46 shots to give the Penguins a 3-1 series lead, was out-dueled by the Flyers netminder who recorded his second career playoff shutout in route to a 3-0 Philadelphia win in game five.

The Flyers, who are 0-13 in series that they have trailed three games to one, have outplayed the Penguins the last four games of this series yet find themselves down 3-2.

Last night Philadelphia made a statement that they would not go quietly into the night and roll over like they did in last years Eastern Conference Finals. The Flyers out-performed everyone in the Mellon Arena last night, including the fans and concession vendors, on their way to only their third playoff win against the Penguins in their last 10 postseason meetings.

The Penguins, who had a chance to win the series on their home ice, came out gunning for the jugular. Pittsburgh out-shot Philadelphia 15-5 in the first period, and held the Flyers without a shot for nearly a dozen minutes of combined play to close out the first period and start the second.

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Just like the Penguins rode Fleury to a win in game four, Martin Biron carried the Flyers on his back for a season-saving win in game five.

"Part of the message before the game was we needed Marty to be great," Philadelphia coach John Stevens said.

"When Marty plays like he did, he allowed us to regroup between periods; he allowed us to start doing some of the things that we'd done earlier in the series and we really got things corrected."

Great would be an understatement, Biron played arguably his best game of the season against the Penguins considering the circumstances.

"There's no more excitement and challenge to be down in a series and know there's no tomorrow," said Biron.

Biron, who will be an unrestricted free agent this season, has been chastised by the Philadelphia faithful despite his success over the past two seasons. There is no doubt that if he plays in game six like he did in game five, then the hostile Flyer crowd will chant “Mar-ty, Mar-ty, Mar-ty,” way into the wee hours of the morning.

Biron’s 28 saves were the highlight of the night, but he was not the only Flyer to shine.

Philadelphia again got production from their fourth line when Aaron Asham ripped a shot past the glove-hand of Fleury at 6:32 of the second period.

"He [Asham] was asked to go out and play a certain role and he gets a goal on a great shot," Biron said. "That really gives the guys a boost when you see that, the energy and emotion to keep the game going."

Less than two minutes later Evgeni Malkin managed to beat Biron, to seemingly tie the game at one, but the goal was overturned by the officials.

Claude Giroux, who has come on strong the past two games after his costly penalty in game three, continued the production from Philly’s role players when he scored his second goal of the postseason at 3:25 of the third.

Mike Knuble put the nail in the coffin at 13:12 of the third, and Pittsburgh was again plagued by penalties that never really gave them a chance to catch up; the Penguins were penalized five times on the night, four times in the third period.

"We're still down in the series," said Knuble, "All we can do is force another game in Philly. We achieved that goal, but they're going to be ready for us. Maybe they'll feel a little more threatened. Maybe they didn't feel threatened up 3-1."

If the Penguins didn’t feel that the Flyers were a threat, then this was quite the wake up call for them. After coming out on fire in the first period, the Penguins fell flat on their face for the remaining two stanzas.

"We know we can play like that; we know we need to play like that, and that's how we need to be prepared to play the first 20," Pens coach Dan Bylsma said. "And after we're done with that first 20, we've got to get right back to it in the second 20.

The Penguins have not been able to string three consistent periods of hockey together since the first game of this series, and if not for Fleury they would be in Philadelphia’s position, if not sitting at home already.

"Yeah. They're a good hockey team," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "Do we expect to come out here and dominate a game? Probably not. But we expect a little more of ourselves. We realize that, and we need to be better."

The Penguins have been playing solid defense and special teams, the Flyers are currently 0-18 power plays in the series, but it is on the offensive end, surprisingly enough, that the Penguins are having their struggles.

After blowing Philadelphia away with 15 shots in the first period, the Penguins combined for only 13 shots the rest of the way.

The Penguins gave a very similar performance in game four when they were out-shot 46-26; Pittsburgh had 13 shots in the first period, then combined for only 13 more the rest of the game.

The momentum in this series has shifted to Philadelphia, despite being down in the series. If they continue to play their game then it will be very difficult for Pittsburgh to survive.

If Pittsburgh is to have any chance on Saturday they are going to need to play hard, physical hockey for 60 minutes. Game five should serve as a warning that Philadelphia is not going to allow the Pens to walk all over them.

The Flyers still feel as if this is their series, "We were more excited to win than nervous to lose," Giroux said. "That's important. When you work hard, you get rewarded."

A win in game six sends the series back to Pittsburgh for game seven, with Philadelphia having all the momentum. The biggest goal in this series will be the first one scored on Saturday.

Whoever gets it has control of this series.

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