Sidney Crosby blocks out hostile Philly crowd, leads Penguins to Game 3 win
PHILADELPHIA — Nashville with its catfish and down-home taunts? Rookies.
Washington and its sea of red? Amateurs.
If a hockey team really wants to play in a hostile environment, it's got to come to Philadelphia. No one does hostile quite like the residents of Pennsylvania's largest city.
And no one thrives in a hostile environment quite like Sidney Crosby.
A crowd-silencing goal by Crosby and a couple of early five-star saves from goalie Matt Murray kept their team afloat during a tumultuous first period, allowing the Penguins to roar past the Flyers with a dominant second period that led to a 5-1 victory in Game 3 of a first-round series Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia.
The Penguins lead the series 2-1. Game 4 is Wednesday in Philadelphia.
The road environment was at its most hostile in the first period.
The Philadelphia crowd, a profane wave of orange, growled its guttural displeasure with the Penguins and their captain.
The team they root for was in a similar mood. The Flyers used an aggressive forecheck to take an 11-4 shots advantage and push the Penguins onto their heels.
First, Murray made a pair of game-changing saves to keep the Flyers off the scoreboard.
Less than two minutes in, Nolan Patrick blew past Olli Maatta up the right wing, but Murray made the save with his glove. Less than a minute later, Murray made a pad stop on Travis Sanheim at the left post after a backdoor pass from Jori Lehtera.
“That's my job as a goalie,” Murray said. “Stop the puck and keep the puck out of the net.”
At the period's midpoint, with the Flyers still feeling frisky, Crosby scored a massive goal.
The Penguins forecheck forced Flyers winger Michael Raffl into a turnover in the defensive zone. The puck kicked to Patric Hornqvist in the slot, and he fed Crosby at the left post for a wraparound goal.
“It was a big goal,” center Derick Brassard said. “It kind of quieted the crowd a little bit.”
Crosby finished the game with a goal and three assists, giving him 171 career playoff points. That's one point off Mario Lemieux's franchise record.
The performance also gave Crosby 21 goals and 58 points in 39 career games in the building where the fans hate him the most.
Crosby said he's not sure why he's had so much success in Philadelphia. Coach Mike Sullivan didn't have the same problem.
“I just think it's an indication of how competitive he is,” Sullivan said. “I think he thrives in that environment. When the stakes are high, if we're in an away building, and they're important games, Sid tends to play his best, and he's done that certainly from my experience here, time and time again.
“You gotta give the Flyers a lot of credit. They had a really strong start. I thought Sid was a big reason that our team settled down. That first goal he got, for example, he has an ability to stay in the moment. He doesn't get rattled. He doesn't get fazed by any of the adversity or anything that a high-stakes environment might present to other players.”
Instead of enjoying the fruits of their exceptional first period, the Flyers were down, 1-0.
Their moment had passed. The Penguins largely dominated the rest of the game.
Brassard scored off a nifty power-play feed from Phil Kessel early in the second. Evgeni Malkin and Brian Dumoulin scored five seconds apart later in the period to make it 4-0.
A hostile crowd's jeers had been replaced by tears.
“It's a tough environment to come into,” Crosby said. “I think we all prepare knowing that. We played well today. I think it's just one of those things.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.