CHICAGO – Looking to give his team a jolt, Danny Carcillo charged Chicago’s Tomas Kopecky to deliver a big hit for Philadelphia in the first period of Game 2—and Kopecky stepped aside.
Carcillo ended up drilling teammate Jeff Carter, who slammed hard against the ice while his helmet flew from his head.
It was that kind of night for the Flyers: playing hard, but misfiring. Their late flurry against Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi wasn’t enough, and the 2-1 defeat on Monday put them down 0-2 in the Stanley Cup finals.
“They wanted to come out and dictate the physical play, but I thought our guys did a great job,” Chicago’s Adam Burish said, adding: “Nice of Carcillo to take a run at one of his own guys.”
The game was filled with tugging at jerseys, whacking at sticks, shoving of shoulders and slamming bodies into the boards, an almost mirror-opposite style from the opening night of the series. The guys in orange and black clearly emerged with a higher level of intensity, with Carcillo’s energy and antagonism helping provide an extra spark.
After tightening up their defence, though, and peppering Niemi with 15 shots in each of the last two periods, the Flyers went back to Philly for Wednesday’s Game 3 with nothing to show for it.
“It’s just a bounce here or there. Unfortunately, they’re getting them right now,” said captain Mike Richards, who had an assist on Simon Gagne’s power-play goal but took two penalties, had three giveaways and was quiet again after an unproductive Game 1. “We have to work harder to create them for ourselves.”
Or work smarter.
“I thought we were way too conservative in the first two periods,” centre Danny Briere said. “We didn’t give ’em much, I understand that, but that’s not really our type of hockey. We didn’t forecheck. We didn’t create much offensively. We didn’t spend much time in their zone.”
Coming into the finals, Richards had six goals and 15 assists in the playoffs, but has a lone assist so far. Carter has been struggling, too. The Flyers generated an incredible amount of prime scoring chances down the stretch trailing 2-0, but came up empty except for Gagne’s score.
“I thought their goaltender played extremely well in the third period,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We had more than enough looks to tie up that game and opportunities to get out of it. It didn’t happen. We have to go home and take a look at some things and come back. We have to win our home game.”
The Flyers played a penalty-free Game 1, a sign of good discipline that also raised the question about whether they were rough and tough enough in that 6-5 free-for-all.
Laviolette put Carcillo on the scratch list for Game 1, but he sent him out with Richards and Carter on the first line for the first period before later dropping him down to play with Claude Giroux and Arron Asham and moving Gagne back up to the top group. Carcillo took a foolish unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that he contested angrily toward the officials, though the Flyers survived the power play without any damage.
Carcillo proved he’s more than just a scrapper and a yapper, showing some offensive skill by firing a pair of zinger slapshots at Niemi during the second period as the Flyers got their attack going.
A few minutes earlier, Richards—who had beaten Brent Sopel for a sudden breakaway—was denied with a right pad save by Niemi. Gagne played less than 3½ minutes in the first period, before ending up with 16:37 of ice time for the game.
Gagne was like a completely different player down the stretch, punching a power-play goal past Niemi 5:20 into the third with Carter helping with a screen in the slot.
They had all kinds of chances in the final minutes. Gagne missed a rebound in front of star Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith that Niemi kicked out of the crease with his pad.
Niemi finished with 32 saves, including 15 in the second and 14 more in the third. Solving him will be the top priority in Game 3.
“I don’t think we tested him very much,” Briere said. “I thought we made him look good with outside shots way too often. I thought he played well in the third period, but we didn’t create much traffic. We didn’t have many quality chances. We have to do a better job there.”
In net, Michael Leighton rebounded after a rough game that got him pulled early, but he gave up a cringer of a goal when fourth-liner Ben Eager raced in along the right wing and fired a shot into the upper-right corner for the 2-0 lead—just 28 seconds after Marian Hossa put the Blackhawks on the board.
“The third period was all about us,” defenceman Kimmo Timonen said. “If we can keep playing that way for 60 minutes, we’re going to win games. Now we go home. We’ve got to make sure that we bring that extra gear.”