Biron, Flyers blank Penguins to stay alive
Perhaps the Pittsburgh Penguins should have paid closer attention to other Eastern Conference contender wearing black and gold.
Pittsburgh was poised to eliminate the visiting Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 of their conference quarter-final at Mellon Arena on Thursday night.
But unlike the Boston Bruins, who closed out their series with the Montreal Canadiens with a dominant performance, the Penguins looked listless in a 3-0 loss to the Flyers.
"I think we should reaffirm our game plan," Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi said.
Martin Biron stopped 28 shots for his second post-season shutout and, other than the occasional foray from a determined Sidney Crosby, wasn't severely tested by the fourth-seeded Penguins.
"That was the message before the game — that we needed Marty to be great," Flyers head coach John Stevens said.
Arron Asham, Claude Giroux and Mike Knuble scored the goals and Matt Carle contributed two assists for the fifth-ranked Flyers, who trimmed Pittsburgh's lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-2.
Game 6 goes Saturday at the Wachovia Center (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 3 p.m. ET).
"We have the knowledge that we have won in that building last time we were there," Penguins rookie head coach Dan Bylsma said.
History favours the Penguins because the Flyers have never rallied from a 3-1 deficit — going 0-13 in such series — and haven't forced a seventh and deciding game since losing to the Edmonton Oilers in the 1987 Stanley Cup final.
"We wanted to get it over with in Game 5," Bylsma said.
Pittsburgh outshot Philadelphia 15-5 in a scoreless first period, one in which Crosby kept Biron busy but took a beating from the Flyers' staunch defence and captain Mike Richards, given the unenviable task of checking him.
"You always expect it to be physical, especially coming in here," Crosby said
"We did a lot of things we wanted to do at the onset of the game," Bylsma stated. "We had 15 shots in the first, so that was a period that I was really happy with how we played."
Problem was, Pittsburgh rarely threatened after that.
"We started doing some of the things that we had done earlier in the series and, then, got things corrected," Stevens said. "But I think Marty deserves a lot of credit for that because I think he held the fort early."
'Clearly, he kicked the puck'
Philadelphia opened the scoring 6:32 into the second period as Asham took a drop pass from linemate Daniel Carcillo and unleashed a rising slapshot that beat Marc-Andre Fleury high to the glove side.
"I was basically trying to use the D-man as a screen and get the puck on net," Asham told CBC Sports.
Evgeni Malkin, who led the NHL with 113 regular-season points, looked to have tied it in the ninth minute, but video review confirmed that he kicked the puck in and the referee's on-ice ruling was overturned.
Cruising toward the net at the left post, Malkin tried to kick a Sergei Gonchar rebound up to his stick with his right skate, but the puck slid under Biron's left arm and across the goal-line before Malkin could get a stick blade on it.
"Clearly, he kicked the puck and, when they called the goal off, we got a sense of 'Let's take this break and get going,'" Stevens explained. "We have enough experience now that we can use this to our advantage."
The Flyers went ahead 2-0 less than 3½ minutes into the third period when Carle's pass caromed off the skate of rookie Darroll Powe and directly to Giroux, who converted from the slot for his second goal of the series.
Malkin later fired a backhand shot wide of the left post on a solo rush and the Flyers scored on the counter-attack, with Richards and Knuble breaking up ice on an odd-man rush.
Unfortunately for Fleury, he kicked Richards's slapshot straight to Knuble, who whisked it in the open side beyond the reach of the lunging netminder.
When the Penguins threatened, Biron held them at bay, smothering Miroslav Satan's shot from the slot on a slick set-up from Malkin and later making an alert pad stop at the right post to earn the shutout.
Satan was inserted into Pittsburgh's lineup in place of Petr Sykora, who is struggling with a shoulder injury; Philippe Boucher suited up for defenceman Kris Letang.
Fleury finished with 23 saves.
With files from The Associated Press