Starkey: Pens undone by power play
TribLIVE Sports Videos
What a bizarre evening — and I'm not talking about the animals in the stands.
"Did you see all the bears out there?" Jaromir Jagr said to no one in particular in a joyous Philadelphia Flyers' dressing room. "There were like 70 or 80. How did they get tickets?"
They were not real bears, of course. They were Penguins fans dressed as bears, playfully mocking Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who, before the series, memorably told reporters the only thing he was scared of was "bears in the forest."
The Penguins looked pretty darn scary for a period, jumping to a 3-0 lead before they were undone by a familiar foe: their own power play.
That is their bear in the forest.
Unable to bury the resilient Flyers, the Penguins saw their three-goal lead melt into a stunning 4-3 loss when Jakub Voracek scored at 2:23 of overtime. Kris Letang flubbed a puck in front of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, and Voracek whacked it home.
"What we did," Bryzgalov said, "was unbelievable."
To call the loss dispiriting would be a radical understatement. Blame it on the power play.
Not only did the Penguins fail to score on their three chances — all coming with an opportunity to bury the Flyers — but they sapped themselves of momentum.
"We didn't have much end-zone time," said coach Dan Bylsma. "It was more off the rush, and within five to 10 seconds a shot, and (the Flyers) got it cleared."
The ineptness was enough to spark memories of last year's power-play meltdown against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Surely, you remember. The Penguins went 1-for-35 overall and 0-for-25 at home.
At least that power play had an excuse. It didn't have enough talent.
This one might have too much.
This isn't new, either. The power play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin underachieves to its talent level.
It's time for Bylsma and his staff to make some changes. One, the Crosby-at-the-point experiment needs to end. He belongs around the net. That is where he does his best work. It's where he scored a brilliant even-strength goal last night.
Two, Steve Sullivan belongs back on the first unit full-time. Gaining entry has been a problem. Sullivan is a master there. He and Kris Letang need to man the points. It seems obvious now. Chris Kunitz would then be the odd man out.
The Penguins didn't shoot enough with the man advantage last night. They got too cute. When they did get a decent shot, they had zero net-front presence.
The only space that cleared faster than the Flyers' goal crease was the Penguins' dressing room after the game. Players were gone in record time, leaving a trail of unanswered questions.
The Flyers gained life immediately after a failed Penguins power play early in the second period. A goal there, and "it's over," as Voracek put it.
Instead, Daniel Briere took advantage of a Joe Vitale turnover to make it 3-1 (yes, Briere was a mile offside on the play).
Briere struck again early in the third to make it 3-2, beating Fleury on an odd-angle shot from near the left boards.
"I'm sure he'd like to have that one back," Briere said.
The Flyers showed the Penguins what a real power play looks like after Brooks Orpik went to the box for interference at 10:41 of the third. Brayden Schenn skillfully deflected a Scott Hartnell pass into the net at 12:23.
Game 1's don't always foretell a series, especially when the Penguins are involved. In their past four playoff series, and five of their past six, the Game 1 winner went on to lose.
But this was a shocker.
It puts a ton of pressure on the Penguins Friday night, unless they're planning more 2-0 escapes on their way to another Stanley Cup.
That doesn't sound like a good plan.
A mandatory practice today, featuring lots of power-play work with Sullivan at the point, sounds like a great one.
Time to bear down.
A Penguins rally at the Allegheny County Courthouse courtyard in anticipation of the start of the Penguins playoff game against Philadelphia Wednesday, April 11, 2012.
Game 1 Penguins vs. Flyers 4⁄11/12
The Flyers defeat the Penguins, 4-3 in overtime, in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup playoff series.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com 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.
- Penguins’ Kessel ‘thrilled’ with chance to play with Crosby, Malkin
- Hurricanes owner rips Rutherford, Penguins
- Penguins sign defensive prospect
- Defenseman Martin’s agent planning meeting with Penguins at draft
- Penguins bringing back defenseman Cole with 3-year extension
- Penguins notebook: Rutherford proves savvy in deal
- Penguins deflect trade inquiries, decide to stand pat during NHL Draft
- Shopping season starts up for Penguins amid onset of free agency
- Penguins notebook: Sheary hoping to return to organization