First off, speaking from a strictly hockey standpoint, this game should be shown to someone who has never looked into being a fan of the NHL. The game had everything: a fierce rivalry, fights, end-to-end action, world-class plays, and swift momentum swings that no other sport can come even close to matching.
The downside of a game like this: being fans of the teams involved. It was madness. Complete fucking madness.
The Pens have this habit of making the Flyers look really good. And if it looks like we are taking credit away from the Flyers, good, because we are. Rewind to last year's playoff series. The Pens made Giroux look like the best player in the world while making Sean Couturier look like some elite shutdown center. The Devils dispatched the Flyers in the next round after they realized that the Flyers aren't that good. Then came last night. The Pens made Zach Rinaldo look like a modern-day Claude Lemiuex. They let the Flyers get inside their heads. Again.
There were some good things…
– The power play was money.
– Second straight game with a third-period comeback.
– Brandon Sutter officially introduced himself into the Pens/Flyers rivalry.
– CONSOL was alive.
And there were the bad things…
– Another multiple-goal lead blown to the Flyers.
– Lack of composure and discipline.
– Shoddy goaltending.
This is a game that will be referenced for a while. It was an instant classic. Too bad we've seen it before.
Pens carried the play early. The Flyers looked horrible. The shots were insanely in favor of the Pens. Only chance the Flyers had was a Crosby giveaway that led to a 7-on-1 for Philly the other way. Couturier may still be trying to deke or whatever he was doing on that play. Not sure if he even got a shot off.
Eventually, the Pens would strike. Matt Niskanen got a puck through a crowd. Bryz never saw it. 1-0.
Laviolette called a timeout, which led to Laviolette telling Zolnierczyk to take a penalty and try to injure a Penguin. It turned out to be Bortuzzo. Right after the hit, Engelland wrecked Zolnierczyk. He was bloodied and got chirped by the Pens bench on his way back to the locker room to make sure his camera had fresh batteries.
Somehow, Malkin was gonna get a goal on the PP from the Zolny board. He had a close call that went to Toronto, but it was inconclusive. Then, after the Pens PP worked the puck, Martin fired one off the boards, and Malkin tapped it in up top.
Flyers calmed down after that.
Then it was the Harlem Shake in the Pens' crease. Flyers were able to interfere with Vokoun a couple times then scored.
Cue Benny Hill:
Ah, then it was 2-2. It was officially Welcome Back to the Shitshow.
It was Bylsma's turn to take a timeout.
There was a clusterfuck of penalties, and the Flyers had a PP. That didn't last long because one of the Schenns boarded Tanner Glass for some reason. The first period's peak came when Glass and Simmonds fought. Major bombs thrown by both.
The rest of the first was awesome. Solid hits each way. Letang and Rinaldo went off. Rinaldo got to the Pens on every level. Voracek and Cooke both went off at some point, as well. Voracek made this gesture
in the box.
Crosby and Kunitz had a 2-on-1, and Sid went for the pass. No dice.
Couturier went to the box for jobbing Neal. A Malkin turnover led to a Talbot breakaway, but Crosby caught up to him and lifted his stick — a picture-perfect backcheck.
Game was going along well for a while, then Neal took an interference call. Big kill for the Pens.
Rinaldo continued his mission of getting in Engelland's head. Engo was chasing him, and the Flyers ended up getting a great chance. Then Rinaldo was on the ice again and ran Martin. Orpik left his position to light him up, which gave Zolnierczyk a chance with a weak backhander.
By the way, how did Rinaldo get a chance to light up Martin? Because he was basically 1-on-3 against Flyers forecheckers on the boards with the rest of the Pens waiting for something to happen. The Flyers' forecheck is what is disarming the Penguins. They are hitting the Pens D, disrupting their game, disrupting their breakouts.
Adams went off for an iffy elbow. And the Flyers scored a crushing goal late. Orpik forgot to check the backdoor. Voracek strikes with 10 seconds left. 3-2.
So Voracek scored twice in 30 seconds. 4-2.
Shades of last year's playoff series loomed as the Pens became unglued.
Couturier did a marathon cross-check job on Malkin on the boards. Finally, Malkin had enough and went after Couturier. The Pens killed off the extra two minutes from that stick fest.
Looked like Matt Cooke was double shifting, and Beau Bennett was benched.
The Pens started to come to life. Tyler Kennedy corralled a puck and beat Bryz.
4-3. Great job by Paul Martin to get the shot on target.
Comeback city? Nope. Wayne Simmonds had another ideas. He threw a puck toward a streaking Giroux. It hit Niskanen's stick. 5-3.
So deflating. The Pens needed a powerplay, but instead Glass took a crippling double minor. But that's when things got started.
THE FINAL 8 MINUTES
The Flyers started a power play, but it got shut off because Mike Knuble refuses to die and took high-sticking penalty. Then Fedotenko took a high-sticking penalty.
A huge factor in last year's playoffs was the Penguins never making the Flyers pay. That wasn't the case last night. DING DING DING. James Neal. 5-4.
Really enjoying that Neal goal call.
Then probably the best part of the game. The Pens still had a 5-on-3. Talbot decided it was legal for him to grab the puck and go for a skate with it. Huge mistake. As the CONSOL crowd realized there was a penalty on Talbot and he went screaming at the ref, the whole scene looked like moment in a wrestling match right before the hero turned the tide on a villain.
The Pens powerplay was still poetry. The puck went in. It looked like goal city. Kunitz had a bad look on his face when he was celebrating.
Replay confirmed it.
The good news was the PP got a timeout to chill. Problem was, so did the Flyers' PK. The Flyers rose from the depths and killed it. Hope seemed lost.
And then Brandon Sutter brought the house down. 5-5.
God this was such a big go–
Flyers came right back. Voracek somehow got a puck past Vokoun from a bad angle.
Mike Emrick's voice breaking on the goal call went through you like a blaaade.
No reason for that to go in. As much as people are pissed at Vokoun, it pales in comparison to how he feels. He stood back there and watched his teammates battle to tie the game, only to give up a weak goal.
The Flyers survived the last minute of the game. Letang looked unsure of himself in that last minute. Maybe it was because he played like 15 minutes in the third.
– Pierre McGuire was on Laviolette's sac the entire game. At one point, he even called Laviolette the MVP of the team. A short while after that, the Flyers started their parade to the box in the third.
– Feels like Letang has been told not to take shots on the power play. The Pens new go-to move is the quick Malkin to Neal one-timer.
– Pierre said it felt like a playoff game. Shockingly he wasn't wrong. But still…
– Pics: USA Today, AP, Getty