Penguins' fortunes reversed in Game 2 loss to Flyers
Kris Letang spent a lot of the series opener between the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers prowling the offensive zone or hugging teammates to celebrate goals.
He spent much of Game 2 on Friday night trying to keep pinballing pucks out of his own net or getting medical attention in the locker room after a violent collision with Claude Giroux.
Welcome to the playoffs, where glorious highs often are followed by gut-wrenching lows.
Sean Couturier had a goal and two assists, and goalie Brian Elliott turned in a 34-save bounce-back effort, leading the Flyers to a 5-1 victory in Game 2 of the first-round series Friday night.
The series, tied 1-1, will continue Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia.
“We knew it was not going to be easy,” Letang said.
In terms of controlling possession and dictating play, the Penguins were probably more dominant in Game 2 than they were in a 7-0 victory in Game 1. They outshot the Flyers, 35-20, and racked up a 37-19 advantage in even-strength shot attempts.
When it came to finishing, though, it was a complete reversal of fortune.
The Penguins hit three posts and a crossbar. Sidney Crosby was stopped by Elliott on a breakaway and misfired on a slam-dunk at the right post off a cross-ice pass from Phil Kessel on the power play.
By the time Patric Hornqvist broke up Elliott's shutout bid in the third period, the Flyers already had a four-goal lead.
“It wasn't from a lack of opportunities,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “We just couldn't seem to find the back of the net.”
The Flyers, meanwhile, took a 2-0 lead into the third period after two pucks ricocheted their way past goalie Matt Murray, who made 15 saves on the night.
The first came on a Shayne Gostisbehere power-play point shot in the final minute of the first that bounced through traffic and trickled between Murray's pads.
The second came when a Couturier shot from the right side hit Murray's left pad, popped up into the air and banked in off Letang's body in the first minute of the second.
“It was going to go in the corner, but it hit my elbow and my helmet and went in,” Letang said. “Just a bad bounce, you know?”
When Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick tacked on goals in the first six minutes of the third period to give the Flyers a 4-0 lead, the Flyers had made a statement and their coach had been vindicated.
Dave Hakstol didn't make a single change to his lineup after the Game 1 loss and was rewarded for staying the course.
“Nobody's really giving us a serious chance in this series. I don't know if anyone still will,” Hakstol said. “But I know this: We just got it down to a five-game series. We introduced ourselves into this series tonight.”
The violent hit on Letang came seven minutes into the second period. Giroux bumped into Crosby, which jarred the Flyers captain. He backed right into Letang, delivering a crushing blow with his backside.
Letang went to the locker room but returned by the start of the third period. He wouldn't say whether he went through concussion protocol.
“I just came and had a little chat,” Letang said. “I felt good enough to come back, so I was fine.”
Letang said he had no opinion of the hit because he didn't see it coming. Crosby was more demonstrative.
“I thought he hit him high,” Crosby said. “I'm sure the league will look at it, but I thought it was a pretty high hit.”
Giroux called it an accident.
“I just tried to brace myself,” he said. “It was really fast. I'm glad it worked out that he came back.”