Flyers score 8 more to put Pens on the brink
The Pittsburgh Penguins, a popular pick of many hockey observers to win the Stanley Cup, are one game away from being swept out of the first round of the playoffs after an 8-4 loss on Sunday afternoon to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Rookie Matt Read and veterans Daniel Briere and Max Talbot all scored two for the Flyers, who took a 3-0 series lead in a game that turned ugly on more than one occasion.
Claude Giroux followed up his six-point effort in Game 2 with a goal and an assist, while Jaromir Jagr had his best playoff game yet with three assists.
The teams will get an extra day of rest before rejoining Wednesday in Philadelphia for Game 4.
"Our goal is to finish it right away," Briere said.
After preventing Philadelphia from scoring in the opening period of the series, the Penguins have allowed goals in each stanza since, for a total of 20 allowed.
The Penguins replaced started Marc-Andre Fleury with Brent Johnson at the beginning of the third with the score 6-4, but it took Giroux a mere 27 seconds to find the mark again.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma quelled any goalie controversy talk.
"I do know Marc-Andre will be the guy in our net for the next four games," said Bylsma.
James Neal and Jordan Staal scored two each for Pittsburgh, who scored the first goal of the game for the third straight time.
There were hostilities reminiscent of their game exactly two weeks ago.
Giroux and Crosby — who were both dogged by concussions this season —dropped the gloves in a first period that lasted one hour due to all of the extracurricular activity.
"All three games were kind of weird games," Giroux said. "I guess I like weird games because we always finish by winning."
Pittsburgh's Kris Letang and Philadelphia's Kimmo Timonen also went at it, and were tossed. Philadelphia's Jakub Voracek and Pittsburgh's Steve Sullivan each were penalized for roughing.
Timonen and Letang were both hit with 5 minutes for fighting and were ejected because they were assessed a major penalty after the original fight had started.
Philadelphia forward Brayden Schenn levelled Paul Martin with a clean hit late in the first, only to be greeted by a cross check and a punch from Penguins forward Arron Asham.
Asham was given a five-minute match penalty, which means a suspension is in the offing.
Sean Couturier, who notched a hat trick in Game 2, was left momentarily woozy in the third after what appeared to be a blindside hit from Neal. The Penguins forward was not penalized on the play.
Crosby was again in the middle of things with five minutes remaining, renewing a grudge with Schenn stemming from two weeks ago.
The Penguins captain wasn't done participating in the prolonged brouhaha, wrestling with Scott Hartnell. Crosby's teammate Craig Adams jumped in and fought Hartnell, earning 17 penalty minutes in total for his role as third man.
"There's more than one team getting in those things," Crosby said. "You can make a story all you want about us getting frustrated. They're doing the same things we are. It's intense."
Evgeni Malkin, the league's Art Ross Trophy winner as top scorer, has yet to score through three games. Malkin has four assists in the series.
Staal scored only 3:52 into the game to give the Penguins a familiar lead. It marked the 13th time out of the last 15 games the Flyers have trailed 1-0. At that point, the Flyers had been outscored 7-1 in the first period in this series.
The Flyers rallied from a 3-0 hole in Game 1, and deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 in Game 2.
They did it again. Talbot tapped a rebound toward Fleury that the Penguins goalie tried to stab at with his glove. The puck trickled by for the tying goal.
Briere scored consecutive goals off a 5-on-3 power play and a one-timer to leave Fleury reeling.
Neal scored the first of his two goals to make it 3-1. Read ended the period when he snagged the puck behind the net, skated around and buried it for a 4-2 lead.
Crosby and Bryzgalov jawed at each other as the teams skated toward the locker room.
Philadelphia's lead stood even as the 108-point Penguins attacked with their offence instead of their fists in the second period.
Neal and Read swapped goals to open the second. Staal knocked in a rebound to help the Penguins close to 5-4. Simmonds, though, took a perfect entry pass from Braydon Coburn and backhanded in the fast-break attempt for the insurance goal.
The Flyers didn't take kindly to Neal's third period play.
"We saw Neal going after Sean's head and Claude's head," Briere said. "Obviously, he had a plan in mind."
It's a plan Bylsma wants to avoid.
"The way the game was called, there was a lot of extracurricular activity during and after the plays," he said. "That's an area of the game we want to stay away from. We don't want to be involved in those situations against this team."
The Penguins were assessed with 46 penalty minutes, and the Flyers 34, through the first two periods.
The Flyers hold a 3-0 lead in a playoff series for the 11th time.
Dating back to last season's series against Tampa Bay, in which they held a 3-1 series lead only to lose, the Penguins have lost six straight playoff games.
With files from The Associated Press