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As hockey fights go, it was forgettable. Max Talbot, after a goat-worthy turnover that led to Mike Knuble's first-period goal, got his A&L Motors-loving tail beat by stereotypical Flyer goon Daniel Carcillo. But from a momentum point of view, what Talbot did in sparking his team can never be measured. All that we can definitively say is that before the fight, the Penguins were down 3-0. And after the fight, the Pens began chipping away and gradually took the lead back from Philadelphia, finishing off the Flyers with a Sidney Crosby empty-netter with 28 seconds left. For their efforts, the Penguins get a ticket to Round Two, and the Flyers leave their fans with the parting gift of watching a handshake celebration on home ice. Couldn't have happened to a nicer fan base.

From the individual-effort angle, Marc-Andre Fleury had himself quite a game, despite his stats showing three goals allowed. He shut out the Flyers over the last 36 minutes of the contest, finishing with 22 saves on 25 shots, including a biggie on Jeff Carter in the third period. The only iffy goal he allowed was the Flyers' second, by Joffrey Lupul, towards the tail-end of the first period. It was the strong performance the Pens needed in goal.

The stars also rose to the occasion on this afternoon, with two goals from Crosby (one being the empty-netter), and a two-assist, first-star game from Geno Malkin. As Flyers coach John Stevens said of the dynamic duo, "I just thought Malkin and Crosby almost looked like they took the game over, to be honest with you".

Sergei Gonchar stepped up after a quiet series with the eventual game-winning goal, his first of the series. And getting goals from non-traditional sources such as Ruslan Fedotenko and Mark Eaton were part of the solution to a team mired in a recent goal-scoring funk.

So the Penguins move on in six games, like many prognosticated, while the Flyers make tee times for Sunday morning while guaranteeing chants of "1975" for at least one more season. It's hard to believe that just a few months ago the Pens were on the outside looking in, and now are a quarter of the way to the Stanley Cup. That experience with adversity certainly came in handy on Saturday, with a comeback for the ages that may ultimately define their season. Although for a group that lost Crosby and Fleury for great lengths last season and then qualified for the Cup Finals, they've proven that no task is too large.

This was a hard-fought series, one that looked like it could've gone either way at a number of points. Luckily for Dan Bylsma and his team, they came out on top. Future rounds will certainly challenge this team's resolve, but through six games, they have shown the heart of a potential champion.

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1 comment:

Steve said...

I picked Gonchar to be the difference maker in that game and with the game-winning goal, it looks like he was, although a case could easily be made for Crosby, Malkin, or Talbot too.

Oh yeah, Phuck U Flyers!