VOORHEES, N.J. – Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury reverted to 40-win form and stifled the Flyers in Game 5.
The way Philadelphia forward Scott Hartnell sees it, it’s about time for Ilya Bryzgalov to do the same in Game 6.
“It’s time for our defence and our goalie to win us a game,” Hartnell said Saturday. “It’s not that Bryz is playing bad. We’d love to win 1-0, get a shutout and move on.”
A shutout? In this series?
Pittsburgh’s 3-2 win Friday in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series was the closest thing to a goalie duel in this matchup. Before that, the scores were more fitting of a baseball game at Wrigley Field with the wind blowing out. The Flyers scored eight goals in Games 2 and 3; the Penguins had 10—10!—in Game 4.
In truth, Philadelphia will take a win any way it can get one in Game 6 on Sunday.
The Flyers have a 3-2 series lead and home ice. The Penguins have a two-game winning streak and all the confidence in the world after rallying against the Flyers when the series appeared over.
“We expect them to be desperate,” Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. “This is a big game and we have to be desperate as well. Our situation and our mindset hasn’t changed. It won’t change.”
Win on Sunday and the Penguins would force Game 7 on Tuesday at Pittsburgh.
Fleury was fantastic and stood strong in a third period where the Flyers attacked him from every possible angle. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said after Game 3’s dismal effort that Fleury would start “the next four games.”
He’s given himself a chance to start a third game since then and hopes to have one more.
“I think he just looks like he’s having fun,” Crosby said. “I think when he is at his best, he’s enjoying himself out there. He’s a competitor. He competes. He enjoys competing, and when he’s making those big saves, it’s a huge boost for us. He changed the game with those saves.”
The Flyers crave the same kind of boost from the erratic Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov was yanked after allowing five goals in Game 4 and came back with a better effort in Game 5, just not one good enough to win. He was steady, not spectacular.
“We believe in Bryz,” Hartnell said. “Our organization believes in Bryz and, more importantly, the fans believe in Bryz. We’re going to get it done.”
Bryzgalov said before the series the only thing that scared him were “bears in the forest.”
Turns out, he should have been worried about Penguins on ice.
Pittsburgh made it a series even with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin pointless in Game 5. Jordan Staal continues to shine as the Penguins’ most consistent scorer and followed a Game 4 hat trick with a tying goal in Game 5.
Malkin has made his presence felt more with big hits than his scoring. The Flyers have given Malkin little ice to manoeuvr and flash the form that made him the NHL’s leading scorer and the top candidate for MVP.
While Malkin has struggled, Flyers All-Star Claude Giroux is one point away from tying the franchise record for points in a playoff series (12). Danny Briere in the 2010 Stanley Cup finals and Bill Barber in the 1980 conference semifinals had 12.
“Just coming to the rink today, everyone has a smile on their face, everybody is pretty jacked up for Game 6,” Giroux said.
Philadelphia has tied a franchise record with a whopping 11 power-play goals and added three short-handed goals, but the Flyers haven’t scored an even-strength goal since Giroux tallied one 27 seconds into the third period of Game 3.
The Flyers are at a loss to explain the drought. But for one more day, they’re still in control.
“If you would have told us before the series we’d be up 3-2 and coming home, we’d be pretty happy about it,” Giroux said.