Work in Sports
Flyers win Battle of Pa.
Now they move up the coast to face New Jersey
Posted: Wednesday May 10, 2000 01:41 AM
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Not even Jaromir Jagr's return could save the Pittsburgh Penguins in a series where the Philadelphia Flyers made the biggest comeback of all.
Mark Recchi and John LeClair set up each other for goals and the Flyers, winning for the third time in a week in a rink where they once rarely won, eliminated the Penguins 2-1 Tuesday night in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Flyers went 3-0 in Pittsburgh -- they are 4-1 on the road in the playoffs -- to win 4-2 in a best-of-seven series that saw the home team win only once. They are the 13th NHL team to win a series after falling behind 2-0 at home.
"It says a lot about this team that we were down 2-0 and we came back to win three in their building," LeClair said.
"When we won Game 3 in overtime, that was the big thing," LeClair said. "Then when we won that game in five overtimes ..."
With rookie defenseman Andy Delmore scoring five goals -- as many as Jagr -- and Recchi adding two goals and five assists in the final two games, the Flyers move on to the conference finals against Atlantic Division rival New Jersey, starting at home on Sunday.
"We thought we were going to sweep them when it was 2-0," Penguins defenseman Darius Kasparaitis said. "The momentum was on our side, history was on our side and then we let it get away."
The Penguins, rescued from bankruptcy by retired star Mario Lemieux a day before training camp began, were eliminated in Game 6 of the second round for the second consecutive season despite opening the series with their first two victories at Philadelphia in six years.
The Flyers' toughness and size -- and rookie goalie Brian Boucher's unflappable play -- and the two overtimes wore down the Penguins' largely European lineup after the Penguins outscored the Flyers 6-1 in the first two games.
'He [Boucher] might have gotten overlooked a little bit, but I thought he was our MVP," defenseman Luke Richardson said.
The Penguins, who had never before lost every home game in a playoff series lasting as many as six games, got a boost Tuesday from the return of Jagr, who was limited by a thigh injury to a couple of shifts in Sunday's 6-3 loss.
But Jagr, held scoreless in the final three games after scoring five goals in the first three, couldn't find the net on a couple of good, early scoring chances. The Flyers, who lost center Keith Primeau following a midice collision with Penguins defenseman Bob Boughner in the opening minute, also got a big lift by killing off a pair of early Penguins power plays.
"I think maybe we thought it was going to be easy after it was 2-0," Jagr said. "Losing that [third] game in overtime was tough. If we win either of the overtime games, we're up 3-1. It's not going to hit us for three or four days what happened to us."
Several Penguins said the turning point wasn't the five-overtime game, but when the Penguins squandered Jagr's two goals and an assist in the 4-3 loss in Game 3.
"We could have put the nails in the coffin then and we didn't do it," forward Matthew Barnaby said.
Boughner said, "That was a terrible waste."
He could have been referring to a Penguins power play that was 0-for-3 Tuesday, 0-for-12 while losing the final four games and 2-for-27 in the series.
By contrast, the Flyers got the critical first goal on a power play with the Penguins' Jiri Slegr off for interfering with Rick Tocchet.
Eric Desjardins' shot deflected off LeClair's skate in front of the net to Recchi, who steered it by goalie Ron Tugnutt at 11:04 of the first. It was Recchi's second goal in two games after being held to one goal in the first nine playoff games.
The same Flyers line made it 2-0 in the first minute of the second period as Recchi, the NHL's regular season assist leader, grabbed a rebound of Desjardins' shot, faked a wraparound, then found an open LeClair at the side of the net for his sixth goal.
"That was the turning point," said Herb Brooks, who likely coached his final game with the Penguins. He is to be replaced by former Czech Republic coach Ivan Hlinka next season.
Richardson said, "After that, they looked really frustrated."
Desjardins, Delmore and Dan McGillis, the Flyers' top three defensemen, have a combined eight goals and 13 assists in 11 playoff games. Desjardins was particularly effective late in the series after being on the ice for seven of the Penguins' first eight goals.
The Flyers made the 2-0 lead stand up until Penguins forward Rene Corbet, a late-season pickup who hadn't scored in 15 games, scored at 10:46 of the third after Rob Brown grabbed a loose puck in the left circle.
Boucher withstood a flurry of Penguins scoring chances down the stretch and finished with 27 saves. Boucher turned aside 113 of the Penguins' final 118 shots in the series.
Primeau was carried off the ice on a stretcher after being run over by Boughner. Before the game, Boughner promised retaliation for being slammed in the chest by a Richardson slap shot in Game 5.
Seconds after a faceoff, Boughner skated across the neutral zone from along the right wing boards and leveled Primeau, who was skating up ice with his head down. Primeau lay motionless for several minutes before being taken to UPMC Presbyterian University Hospital for precautionary reasons.
The Flyers did not update Primeau's condition after the game,
but several players said they understand an MRI test was negative.