After Game 1, we sat around for 36 hours contemplating why the Flyers looked so terrible. The main reason for their poor play, we hypothesized, was the inability to stay out of the penalty box. In that game, Philadelphia made ten infractions and lost key chances to impose their will on Pittsburgh with each trip they made to the sin bin.
But tonight in Game 2, things were different. The Flyers cut down on the penalties substantially -- cut them in half, in fact --by taking only five. They played much more disciplined hockey, and as a result, were able to create scoring chances and actually look like a team deserving of playoff hockey.
It is ironic, then, that penalties are what did the Flyers in tonight. A 5-on-3 goal by Bill Guerin 18-and-a-half minutes into the first overtime period put Philadelphia in a serious hole as the series heads to South Broad Street on Sunday afternoon. The infractions that caused that five-on-three weren't the cheap shots that Daniel Carcillo was guilty of on Wednesday, nor were they even slightly dirty. But nonetheless, they were penalties.
The first was a cross-check by Mike Knuble while the Flyers were, believe it or not, on the power play. He wasn't trying to do anything cheap or dirty, but in trying to gain position, he knocked a Penguin to the ice. Less than a minute later, Claude Giroux made things a thousand times worse for the Flyers as he slashed the stick out of the hands of Chris Kunitz. Again, given the rules it was an impossible penalty not to call (we'll be touching on this on Saturday, trust me).
Undisciplined? No. Untimely? Definitely. And that's a tough pill to swallow.
Despite the stinging loss, though, tonight wasn't all bad. The Flyers played far-and-away much better than they did in Game 1. They forechecked hard, they fought along the boards, they won puck battles all over the ice, they blocked shots, and their goalie played a hell of a game. In fact, Martin Biron was named third star of the game tonight (by the Pittsburgh media, keep in mind) for his solid 46 save performance.
Philly could've had a two-goal cushion in the third period if it weren't for Marc-Andre Fleury's toe. Jeff Carter had a wide open net but Fleury made what could turn out to be the save of the series when he made an incredible lateral move to get a piece of the puck along the goal line. The Flyers got a few more whacks at it, but the Pittsburgh netminder was able to keep it out.
That allowed the Pens to get one past Martin Biron while on the power play with about four minutes left in the third. It was another unlucky play that saw the puck pinball off of Braydon Coburn's shin pad into a traffic-filled slot area, off of Evgeni Malkin's leg, and into the back of the net, erupting Mellon Arena into an absolute frenzy.
As mikefive said in the game thread though, this isn't the time of year for moral victories. We can sit here and talk about how reassuring it is that the orange and black played a much better all-around hockey game tonight, but that doesn't make this 2-0 series hole any less daunting. It was said before the game that tonight was a must-win for the Flyers, and that makes it even more painful that the loss came the way it did.
But this thing isn't over -- let's make that clear right now. The Flyers still have three home games left in this series, and they made it clear tonight that they have the fight in them to win a game at the Igloo. Could tonight have been a deflating loss? It certainly is for us fans, that's for sure. But we have to hope -- to expect -- that these guys will get over it quickly.
There's a lot more hockey to be played, so let's take care of business and get this thing back to the Steel City.
Programming note: I'm planning on attending practice at the Skate Zone Saturday morning, so there should be a full rundown of things go sometime tomorrow night. (it's supposed to be beautiful out tomorrow, so emphasis on that night part). Follow me on Twitter (@BroadStHockey) for up-to-the-minute reports from practice. See, Twitter is good for something....