At this point in the series for the Flyers, style points mean nothing.
Philadelphia defended its home turf for the night and prolonged the Battle of Pennsylvania for at least another two days with a 4-2 win in Game 4 and that’s all that really matters right now.
But Philly did it the right way nonetheless, as the Flyers came out with hunger in the first period, which is where this game was won. Daniel Briere finally beat Marc-Andre Fleury in this series and Philadelphia’s biggest offensive acquisition this year played rather inspired for most of the night, even throwing his body around like every Flyer should.
There was a definite sense right off the bat that Philly would not be denied in four straight. Philadelphia is a proud city and one that demands the same of its hockey team. And the fact the Penguins didn’t seem up for a sweep definitely helped.
For the first half of the game, the only Penguins who really seemed engaged were Max Talbot and Petr Sykora, and Sykora largely showed his enthusiasm by taking needless penalties. It took a two-goal spurt in the third period by Jordan Staal to make this one interesting, but the big guns were otherwise missing.
Philadelphia did an excellent job containing and frustrating Sidney Crosby and the bulk of the kudos goes to veteran defenseman Jason Smith, though Randy Jones was also noticeable on the night. Along with Ryan Parent’s play, the Flyers made due (because you can’t really make up for) without Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen and largely kept Crosby to the perimeter of the Philly zone for most of the night.
Another boon for the Orange and Black was the fact Evgeni Malkin was pretty much invisible the whole evening.
But if there was one key, it was the discipline of the Flyers (no, that’s not a typo). With the Pens pressing for the equalizer in the final frame, one penalty could have caved the Flyers’ collective heads in.
But the home team played patient and stayed out of the box until Joffrey Lupul’s empty-netter salted the game away. Then, of course, the two teams got a good ol’ fashion hate-on for each other and the penalties flew like so many de-fisted hockey gloves, but that’s beside the point.
With the series heading back to Pittsburgh, the Flyers inevitably lose the huge edge they gained from the raucous home crowd and the Penguins certainly have realized they do in fact need to play all three periods in order to finish this team off, no matter how many blue-ribbon blueliners the Flyers may be missing.
The Battle of Pennsylvania may be coming to its conclusion soon, but let it be said that the boys from Philly didn’t roll over.
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Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his features, The Hot List and Year of the Ram, appear Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
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