PHILADELPHIA – Sid the Kid’s momentum on a skate-first slide took him crashing all the way into the back of the net.
Lucky for Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, the puck went along with him. His skates were tangled in the net, Flyers goalie Martin Biron was looking for an interference call and the orange-clad crowd howled in protest for a review. The goal stood – and so does Pittsburgh’s series lead.
A sliding Crosby scored a goal that ricocheted off his stick, his midsection and into the back of the net to spark Pittsburgh to a 3-1 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
“That’s how he scores goals and that one right there is a typical goal,” said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.
Crosby’s second goal of the series snapped a scoreless tie and helped the Penguins grab a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series. Now Crosby and the Penguins can finish off the Flyers in Game 5 Thursday in Pittsburgh.
That might sound familiar – the Flyers were knocked out by the Penguins in five games in last year’s conference finals.
“We’re not dead,” said Flyers centre Danny Briere.
No, but their season might be finished if Marc-Andre Fleury makes the kinds of sensational stops like he did in Game 4. He stopped 45 shots, only six shy of the most he’s faced in any game.
He was only two saves away from a career best.
“It didn’t matter how many shots they had, I just tried to make the saves and I knew we would be in good shape to win the game,” Fleury said.
Tyler Kennedy and Maxime Talbot also scored for the Penguins to back Fleury’s effort.
Crosby had one goal in the first three games and the Flyers defense was doing a solid job of keeping the Penguins captain in check until early in the second.
He was right where he needed to be on a smart and marvelous setup.
Chris Kunitz controlled the puck in the circle when Flyers defenceman Kimmmo Timonen slid on his belly in front of the winger to try and block a shot.
Kunitz simply flicked the puck up toward the net over the back of a sprawled Timonen and Crosby came sliding in from the far side to knock in the goal.
The puck appeared to knock off the inside of his stick, then bounced off his body and into the net with Flyers forward Simon Gagne trailing right him.
“I don’t know how Kunitz got the puck, but Chris got the puck,” Crosby said. “I just want hard to the net and just got my stick on it. It hit my leg or something and I just tried to drive the net.”
The red light went on and the goal was announced, but the play was reviewed to make sure the goal wasn’t scored off Crosby’s glove. Crosby stared at the video board like the rest of the 19,883 fans, only he was the one smiling when it was announced the goal stood for a 1-0 lead.
“It’s a dangerous play when you’re kicking the puck around the crease for the goalie. It’s a dangerous play when you’re sliding in both feet first toward the goalie,” Biron said. “I don’t really like that.
“It’s not the first time where he’s done that and drives the net.”
Crosby’s goal could almost have been enough for the win, the way Fleury snagged every flying puck and smothered each one near the goalmouth.
Fleury, who stopped 15 shots in the second period, made perhaps his finest save midway through the third when the Flyers were pounding the net with pucks.
Jeff Carter, the NHL’s second-leading goal scorer, fired a close shot that bounced off the post on Fleury’s glove side onto the goalmouth and was quickly pounced on by the goalie to snuff the rally.
The red light came on, but the refs instantly waved off the goal.
That would prove to be a clutch stop only minutes later when Daniel Carcillo scored his first goal for the Flyers with 8:16 left that sliced the lead to 2-1.
At that point, the Flyers had outshot the Penguins 41-22.
The usual sold-out crowd erupted and roared for every check that sent a Penguins player into the boards the rest of the way.
“If we play the way we did tonight, we won’t have a problem going into Pittsburgh and winning,” Carcillo said.
It was another electric atmosphere that simply didn’t matter much for the Flyers once the final horn sounded. Now, the Penguins have to hope they can protect the home-ice advantage in Game 5 and keep the series from heading back to Philly.
Fleury made his first save of the game, then his second, jumping out to a much better start than in Game 3 when he allowed goals on the first two shots of the game.
He got some insurance in the second period Kennedy avoided the check, broke free in the middle, and backhanded the puck past Biron for a 2-0 lead.
Matt Cooke assisted on each of Pittsburgh’s first two goals.
It was still 2-0 in the third when the Penguins caught a pair of breaks on one play.
Fleury accidentally tangled with Mike Richards and fell backward – just in time for Mike Knuble’s slapper from the circle to smack off him on the way down.
Richards was even whistled for two minutes for tripping, though neither team did anything on the power play. The Flyers were 0-for-8 and the Penguins went 0-for-5.
“I thought we did everything well except put the puck in the net,” Richards said.
The Flyers pulled Biron, who had 22 saves, with 1 minute left and got nothing with the extra attacker. Talbot almost immediately fired an easy shot from in front of the Penguins bench all the way into the net.
All that was left was for the public address announcer to tell the fans to “keep the faith” as they headed toward the exits.
Notes: The Flyers haven’t rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win a playoff series since 2003. … Carcillo’s goal was his first for the Flyers. He was scoreless in 19 regular-season games after he was acquired from Phoenix at the trade deadline. Carcillo served a one-game suspension in Game 2 for his whack to Talbot’s head in the waning seconds of the opener.