The Flyers — at least a few of them — have been in the shell-shocked Penguins’ skates. In fact, they were the ones staring at an 0-3 series deficit just last season against the Bruins. The year before that, the Orange and Black made history by becoming the first NHL team since 1975 to dig out of that 3-0 hole and stage a miracle comeback over Boston.
Yes, Danny Briere, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen know exactly what Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Co. are feeling, after again coughing up the early lead, then being blasted to pieces, 8-4, before a bloodthirsty Wells Fargo Center crowd. They watched their heroes drive frazzled Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to run for cover after pumping six goals past him in just two periods. And they finally got their promised war on ice.
By the time Zac Rinaldo was sent to the box with just 2:22 remaining, a whopping 158 penalty minutes had been compiled. That included six fighting majors, including a rare duel between respective stars Giroux and Crosby, three game misconducts and four other 10-minute misconducts.
“I don’t know if it’s hatred or the playoffs,” said Briere, one of three Flyers to score a pair of goals. “They are going to get frustrated. We can’t control that. But we’re having fun. We’re playing for each other and standing up for each other no matter what happens. We are having out blast right now.”
“Hopefully, we can finish it off Wednesday in Game 4. We don’t want to let them hang around and get some confidence.”
It’s hard to believe the Penguins have any confidence left, after the the way they’re being systemically taken apart. Besides Fleury’s shaky goaltending — 17 goals in over six periods — and Philadelphia’s lethal power play, Dan Bylsma’s team has squandered the lead on five separate occasions, including a three-goal lead.
On Sunday, after Jordan Staal beat Ilya Bryzgalov just 3:52 into play, it was more of the same. The Flyers responded with three unanswered goals in a 5:01 span, then never let it get closer than a one. Yet the Flyers refuse to punch their second-round ticket, at least publicly.
“If there’s a team that can come back from 3-0 this year I think it’s them,” said Giroux. “We need to understand that. We need to make sure that we’re focused for Wednesday. But if you would have told us before the series we’d be up 3-0, we would have probably laughed at you.”
Just a few days ago many viewed Pittsburgh as the team to beat — and that’s exactly what the Flyers have done. Beat them relentlessly.
“I’m a little bit surprised,” admitted Talbot. “But they’re a talented team and for having played with them they have a lot of character. They’re not done out there. It’s not like they’re just going to roll over.”
Perhaps not. Perhaps these Penguins will copy what those 2010 Flyers did and climb out of the grave to advance. Based on the mounting evidence now that seems simply too hard to believe.