Penguins show some life with big victory after Flyers' total collapse
The Penguins staved off elimination, peppering the Flyers' net in a 10-3 laugher
The series' goalies set a record for total ineffectiveness, allowing 45 goals
Philadelphia didn't carry the mindset of a team owning a lead in its 3-0 series
The Pittsburgh Penguins live on for another day, and so does the controlling narrative of their series with the Philadelphia Flyers: nobody can stop the puck.
The NHL Guide and Record Book welcomed Ilya Bryzgalov, Marc-Andre Fleury, Brent Johnson and Sergei Bobrovsky into its pages Wednesday night, as the goalies who have now allowed the most goals through the first four games of a playoff series (45) since records have been kept.
The 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers-Chicago Blackhawks Campbell Conference record of 44 seemed right up there with other notable sports records -- especially in this age of austerity on NHL scoresheets.
Move over Murray Bannerman, Warren Skorodenski, Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog. You can no longer lay claim as the four biggest sieves through a first four postseason games. Breezer, The Flower, Johnny and The Bob are now in the books.
In a game that could have been titled "How Not to Close Out a Playoff Series", the Flyers checked their brains somewhere in that small space between Pat's and Geno's Steaks, losing 10-3 -- TEN to three -- in Game 4 of the Eastern quarterfinals at Wells Fargo Center.
A three-games-to-one lead. Another game, assured, in their own building. A 293-4 historical record on their side among pro teams who have had a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series. All of these facts are no doubt insufficient succor for Flyers fans after this outright debacle.
If pucks weren't going through Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky like green corn goes through the new maid, their teammates were probably falling for the league's seeming pregame dictum of "You so much as look at the other guys in a cross way, you're going to the box" after Sunday's Hulkamania at the Wells.
How many dumb penalties did the Flyers take in Game 4, as if 64 penalty minutes weren't enough? How about four straight minors in the first 11 minutes of the second period, all of them sloppy, lazy infractions that seemed to give the jittery Penguins at least the suspicion that they were being given a chance by their hosts. Pittsburgh scored on the first three -- goals by Kris Letang (wicked wrister, top cookies behind the laggardly Bryzgalov), Jordan Staal (wicked one-timer from between the circles, on Bobrovsky in relief) and Steve Sullivan (big slapper from just inside the blue line).
It was 7-3 by that point, the exact moment when sportswriters covering this series began scouring the web for cheap flights back to Pittsburgh.
Those 11 minutes were the game. "It was a crazy game in a lot of ways. But we got a lot of key saves at big times, and we were able to turn it the other way," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma told reporters.
Translation: "Phew, thank God their goalies were even more brutal than ours this time."
Fleury looked like a beaten-one-too-many-times man after Jakub Voracek's one-timer made it 3-2 late in the first period. For The Flower, it was his eighth goal-allowed in fewer than three periods played over the course of two games. You got the sense that just one more by the Flyers in any of the next few minutes would finish off the Penguins for good. They never did get it. All Philly could put on the scoreboard from there on were lots of PIMs. It all made for a meek shuffle to the exits for Flyers fans, some of whom came sporting T-shirts belittling Sidney Crosby: "Guess what? We don't like YOU either!"
You can count on a suspension for Flyers goon Zac Rinaldo after his raffish crosscheck to the face of the Penguins' Zbynek Michalek in the second period. It was the same old garbage from a player errantly trying to "get his team going" with an incendiary move. The pitiable thing for players like Rinaldo is they always seem convinced about the originality of their provocation in moments like that, but all he got for it was a quick exit in front of the not-too-easily-embarrassed faithful.
The easy thing for Peter Laviolette entering Game 5 will be naming as his starting goalie. After the horrendous relief work by Bobrovsky, the Flyers' coach at least doesn't have to face the usual fan pressure of demanding the backup get a chance. Bobrovsky will have his padded backside firmly planted on the visitors' bench, where it belongs, for Friday's game at the Consol Energy Center. Bryzgalov will be given another chance to prove that his nine-year contract last summer is worth it. If he posts a shutout or anything close? All will be forgiven for at least a few days by the orange-and-black faithful, who all paid a dollar or two more in ticket prices to bring in a goalie who was supposed to be money in the playoffs. So far, Breezer has been money only to his accountant.
"We're going to find out what kind of team we are, how we are built," said always-admirable Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr. "If we are the team like we think we are, we're going to have to respond the next game."
But it surely won't be easy. The T-shirts and newspaper headlines figure to be a whole heap friendlier to Crosby this time. And there is always that nervous feeling among Flyers fans at this time of year regarding the man between the pipes. As NBC analyst Mike Milbury put it afterward, the Flyers look suddenly like a "3-1 team in trouble."
Yet, we'll stick with history. Four wins, 293 losses for teams that have been down 0-3 in a series. You can't beat Crosby and Malkin four straight in the playoffs. A loss was bound to happen tonight, just maybe not in this ghastly manner, but you knew the Penguins would win at least one. So it's all good for Philly entering Game 5 with three more chances to close them out if need be.
This is reason for optimism, right Philly fans?