ShareThis Page

Penguins ruining 'rivalry' with Flyers

| Wednesday, April 22, 2009

PHILADELPHIA — On the morning of Game 4, Daniel Briere wondered if this Penguins-Flyers thing might become a rite of spring, given the array of young talent on both teams.

Briere, a Flyers forward, went so far as to compare the matchup to the vicious Colorado-Detroit rivalry of 1996-2002.

"It seems like this is going like that," Briere said. "I started my career out West, and it seemed like those teams had to go through each other every year to have a chance at the Cup. This is probably going to be the same thing. Maybe you throw Washington into that mix with us and Pittsburgh."

Here's the problem with that concept: It can't be a true rivalry unless both teams do some winning — and the Penguins appear to have no intention of letting that happen.

A year after dispatching the Flyers in five games, they are on the precipice of doing so again after a 3-1 victory Tuesday night at Wachovia Center.

This was, indisputably, the Penguins' worst effort of the series, but goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stole the game, making 45 saves on a night when his team was outshot, 46-25.

A fierce penalty-killing unit did its part, as well (Jordan Staal played 7:58 short-handed), snuffing all eight Flyers' power plays. Sidney Crosby, Tyler Kennedy and Max Talbot scored the goals. Talbot's was an empty-netter with 51.3 seconds left.

The outcome left the Flyers utterly befuddled.

"I think we deserved a better fate," said center Jeff Carter, whom Fleury stopped five times. "Their goalie won them that game; that's for sure."

The series shifts to Mellon Arena for Game 5 on Thursday, when the Penguins could capitalize on the precious chance to end a series early and thus preserve valuable energy resources.

The Flyers' theme after a 6-3 victory in Game 3 was that they could easily be ahead and had improved each game. They thought they'd found a chink in Fleury's armor.

Not so.

Fleury made a half-dozen Grade-A saves in the second period alone, including four on hard one-timers from the slot and one on Arron Asham alone at the side of the net.

Philly's theme now is that if it just keeps playing this way, well, good things will happen.

"It's a deep hole, yes," said center Mike Richards, who saw Fleury somehow stop his one-time attempt on a third-period power play. "We also started the season 0-6 (0-3-3, technically). Pretty big hole there, too. I have confidence if we play like we did tonight, this series could be a long way from being over."

OK, but here's the thing: The Penguins have the better goaltender, and that is the most important position on the ice.

Crosby scored the game's first goal at 3:19 of the second period when he drove hard to the net and took a Chris Kunitz pass. The puck banked off Crosby's stick, then his body. That marked the first even-strength goal of the series for a Penguins player on the top two lines not named Evgeni Malkin.

Fleury continued his incredible play in the third period, turning back prime chance after prime chance before ex-Penguins farmhand Daniel Carcillo finally got the Flyers on the board — on their 39th shot — at 11:44, just as the crowd had begun to turn on its team.

Carcillo proceeded to implore the crowd as he sat on the bench.

"The building was shaking," said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. "I'm confident it was shaking, literally. It was a moment where the momentum was with the Flyers."

Fleury held on, helping the Penguins improve to 7-2 in nine playoff games against the Flyers over the past year.

Sure, this has been a much more entertaining series than last year's. Much more intense, too. It won't end with a 6-0 humiliation, like last year's series did.

But unless the Flyers find a way to crack the code, it'll end at precisely the same point.

Five games.

What kind of rivalry is that?

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.