After enduring a rough start to their post-season, the Philadelphia Flyers responded in impressive fashion, rallying from a three-goal deficit to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semi-Final series.
In the game’s opening 20 minutes, the Flyers were a step behind the Penguins at every turn and it resulted in three unanswered Pittsburgh goals before the first intermission. Sidney Crosby scored his first of the playoffs at 3:23 of the first period and was followed by tallies from Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis.
Unphased by the large deficit, Philadelphia regrouped in the second and found some life early on a missed offside. The Flyers had already begun to control the pace of the game when Brayden Schenn sprung Daniel Briere with a long pass and Briere made no mistake by lifting a shot over goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury who had committed to the poke-check. However, it was clear on the replay that Briere was in a good step ahead of the puck and that the linesmen had badly missed an offside call.
Although the goal sparked the Flyers, the Pens were able to muster some chances of their own in the second but Ilya Bryzgalov shook off his early game struggles and made several key saves in the Philadelphia net.
Heading into the third with a 3-1 lead, the Penguins seemed to sit back a little too much and allowed a constant wave of Flyers forwards to come at them. Their hard work finally paid off at 9:17 of the third with Briere and Schenn hooking up again as Briere potted his second of the game.
Philadelphia pushed hard for the equalizer and their pressure was able to draw their first power-play of the game when Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik took a healthy run at Briere and was whistled for interference. The Flyers neatly worked the puck around on the power-play and once again it was the rookie Schenn delivering a huge play, as he was on the receiving end of a beautiful cross-ice feed from Scott Hartnell to tie the game at three.
Just as they were in the third period, the Flyers looked to be the more offensively agressive team and at 2:23 of the extra frame, Jakub Voracek pounced on a Matt Carle shot and completed the stunning comeback. Stunned is exactly what both the Penguins players and their fans were after what was a picture-perfect start to the highly anticipated series between the two Pennsylvania rivals.
The Fall Out
Losing game 1 at home in that manner is obviously devestating for Pittsburgh but it hardly signals their doom in the series. Even though they blew a huge chance at taking the series lead, the game did show that when they are at their best, they are the better team and should win this series. But the game also proved the need to play a full 60 minutes with the foot on the gas, because their opponents have the goods to run with them offensively if they let them.
For the Flyers, the game will without question do wonders for their confidence that was probably a little shaken after their porous start. A game like that was also a huge hurdle for the Flyers six rookies who were playing in their first playoff game, in a hostile environment, against the trendy Stanley Cup pick to boot. They will have shaken off any of the jitters they might have had and can be extremely confident in their ability to go head-to-head with the high-flying Pens.
Schenn Steps Up
The rookie who had the biggest impact in the game was forward Brayden Schenn. After throwing a couple heavy hits in the first period, Schenn and linemates Daniel Briere and Wayne Simmonds were the best Flyers line for most of the night. They were responsible for the first two goals and then it was Schenn who knotted things up with his power-play marker in the third.
A Classic in the Making?
The so called tone-setting did not come in the way that many expected. There were very few extracurriculars after the whistle and the bad blood that exists between the two teams was not enough to cause either side to go overboard.
Instead, the tone was set by the Flyers comeback that has now set this series up to be a lengthy one. And if game 1 is any indication, the more hockey between these two teams the better, because it already has the potential to be a classic.