PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 20: Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette talks to his team during a timeout against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on April 20, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Penguins defeated the Flyers 3-2. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
I've said it a numerous amount of times. Desperation wins hockey games.
>> Peter Laviolette, speaking after Game 4
The Flyers are now desperate. If they lose on Sunday to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the upper hand they once had in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal will have evaporated. They will be staring a blown three-game series lead in the face, and they will be facing the daunting task of a Game 7 in Pittsburgh.
Everything we've said in the last few days remains true. The Flyers have lost three straight games just one time all season, and they haven't lost four games in a row all year. They still need to win just one of their next two games to keep their season alive. They need to play good hockey, of course, but they need to get the bounces as well. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh needs to keep getting the bounces through the next two games to have a chance to move on. And they need to play damn good hockey, too.
As good as Marc-Andre Fleury was last night -- and he was REALLY good -- there's always a certain luck factor involved with a performance like that. If Danny Briere lifts a puck two extra inches, for example, that's a tie hockey game and we could be talking about a different thing today.
Alas, we're not, but the Flyers still played a very good hockey game last night. They were only able to convert on the power play, but they had plenty of chances at five-on-five in the first and third periods and just couldn't get a bounce to go their way. Ilya Bryzgalov was calmingly good, and the defense seemed far more composed than it had earlier. They were yet again able to shut down Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, who have been utterly invisible aside from Game 4, where nobody was invisible. There were a lot of things to on Friday, despite the loss.
Two things ultimately decided things last night: The Danny Briere line hasn't been able to stop Jordan Staal's line, which scored two second period goals last night, and the Flyers couldn't keep up with the Penguins in that middle period. Pittsburgh was simply a hungrier team from the start of the second period until about five minutes into the third period, and that 25 minute stretch was what swung the game in Pittsburgh's direction.
In Game 6, there should be no such lull. Pittsburgh was rightfully the more-desperate team in Games 4 and 5, but in their last home game of the series, the Flyers absolutely must match the urgency of the Penguins in Game 6. If last night's third period was any indication, they shouldn't have any trouble doing just that.
Sunday's Game 6 might as well be Game 7 for the Flyers. Losses in the last two games sucked. There's reason to be worried. But a loss in Game 6 would be utterly devastating. Desperation wins hockey games.