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Flyers take control of NHL playoff series with Penguins

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Monday, April 16, 2012

PHILADELPHIA — Max Talbot used to get in Marc-Andre Fleury`s face moments before games, inspiring the goaltender before the Penguins took the ice.

Now, Talbot and his new team are in Fleury`s head.

Fleury melted down in Game 3 of the Penguins` eventual 8-4 loss Sunday to the Philadelphia Flyers in this Eastern Conference quarterfinals series, his fall coming long after the Penguins` in a stunning series they now trail, three games to none.

'I don`t know what happened,' Fleury said. 'I screwed up.'

He isn`t alone.

The Penguins were outplayed by a Flyers team that has generated 20 goals in three games. While Philadelphia largely has maintained composure, the Penguins have become unglued.

An early Fleury mistake seemed to trigger the meltdown.

With the Penguins ahead, 1-0, and on a power play, Talbot chipped a puck in Fleury`s direction. Fleury nervously mishandled the puck and knocked it into his net.

'We had a good start,' said Fleury, who was lifted after the second period in favor of Brent Johnson after allowing six goals. 'And then that happened.'

Fleury never looked right the rest of the game, and neither did his team.

As Fleury aided the Flyers in tying the score, a brawl ensued. It was the first of many as the Penguins uncharacteristically lost their cool.

'You don`t like to see that,' defenseman Zbynek Michalek said. 'I think we came out too pumped up for this game. It was loud. So much energy in the building. We let our emotions get the best of us. We need to be disciplined. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot.'

By the time the first period ended, right wing Arron Asham and defenseman Kris Letang had been ejected. Center Sidney Crosby, who has been protective of his head following a 15-month concussion saga, dropped the gloves with Philadelphia`s Claude Giroux. Defenseman Matt Niskanen, playing with an injured shoulder, also engaged in a fight.

Then, when the Penguins actually had the better of the play in the second period, center Jordan Staal and left wing Chris Kunitz gave the Flyers three power plays. They converted two into goals.

'We said it at the beginning,' Flyers center Danny Briere said. 'Special teams and discipline would be two key factors. So far, our power play has been responding, even our penalty kill for the most part has been excellent. Discipline-wise, I think we`re doing a good job of trying to stay out of the scrum, not starting anything.'

The same can`t be said of the Penguins.

Right wing James Neal delivered questionable hits in the third period as the Penguins continued to unravel. Neal, Crosby, Kunitz, Craig Adams and Derek Engelland all were penalized during a melee late in the third.

'It`s a good job by everyone to not back down, but at some point, you`ve got to play hockey,' Niskanen said. 'It really, really got out of control.'

He was talking about the game but might as well have been talking about his team. The Penguins were assessed four misconducts, a match penalty and 89 penalty minutes.

'They were going after our best players,' right wing Pascal Dupuis said. 'So that`s how we reacted. But, you know, we lost.'

Bylsma offered what could be interpreted as a prediction to close his postgame news conference.

'I know,' he said, 'Marc-Andre is going to be the guy in net for our next four games.'

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