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Flyers ponder what might have been

PHILADELPHIA — Opinions differed among the Philadelphia hierarchy as to whether the Flyers' grabbing a 3-0 lead early in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Penguins should have ensured the necessity for a Game 7.

"Absolutely," said Flyers chairman Ed Snyder. "No question about it. I thought for sure, after the first period, we were going to head back to Pittsburgh."

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was less certain, given the caliber of the opponent.

"They're not the Little Sisters of the Poor," Holmgren said of the Penguins.

Not unless the Sisters have developed a reputation for erasing 3-0 deficits, as the Penguins did Saturday afternoon at the Wachovia Center during their 5-3, series-clinching victory in Game 6.

The Flyers had led 2-0 after one period and 3-0 after Daniel Briere's power-play goal at 4:06 of the second.

"It should be over," at that point, Flyers coach John Stevens said.

But sometime thereafter, perhaps as quickly as the 4:21 mark of the second period, when the Penguins' Max Talbot dropped the gloves with Philadelphia tough guy Daniel Carcillo, the Flyers began to come unglued.

"We had a 3-0 lead, there's a fight and they seemed to get more energy out of that than we did," Holmgren said.

The Penguins scored their first goal at 4:35 and their second 1:57 later, and the Flyers never recovered.

"Maybe (we) sat back a little bit, tried to protect the lead too much," Flyers captain Mike Richards said.

Briere cited a loss of "focus," something he said haunted the Flyers periodically throughout the series.

"Too many times we let one goal turn into two and three," Briere said. "They got those two quick goals (on Saturday), and we were just trying to survive after that."

Philadelphia's Jeff Carter concurred.

"For some reason we stopped doing the things we were doing to get us to that point (up 3-0)," he said.

Those things included "playing simple," Carter said. "We were getting a lot of pucks deep, getting on their 'D' and they were turning pucks over."

The Flyers outshot the Penguins, 11-7, in the first period but were outshot, 28-14, thereafter.

They managed just five shots in the third period, which opened with the teams tied at 3-3 but was untied by Sergei Gonchar at 2:19.

Holmgren assessed his team as "better" than it had been last season and the series with the Penguins as "more competitive" than last season's five-game get-together in the Eastern Conference final, not that he found much solace in either development.

"The idea is to win the Stanley Cup," he said. "That's what makes this hard to swallow."

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