Cross-State Battle, Round 2: There Will Be Blood | Flyers Over the Pens, 6 - 5 >

by Nick Arnold

Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 --

The game started with the same pace that most of the First Round Playoff games did in last year's series: The Penguins came out firing on all cylinders while the Flyers played on their heels. Niskanen belted a blast from the point five minutes into the opening stanza that bounced past a screened Bryzgalov to make it an early 1-0 lead that we got so used to seeing in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. To that point the Flyers were being outshot 5 to 0.

Immediately following the goal, Lavi wasted no time in using one of his patented "Wake The Hell Up" timeouts. Unfortunately for him, Harry Z was way more energized than Lavi probably would have liked him to be. 

He quickly took a Penguin player into the boards and was rewarded with a 2 minute penalty for boarding, as well as a bloody face. The Penguins were all over the Flyers on their power play and cashed in with 5 seconds left when Malkin took a rebound off the back boards and pushed it up into the net off of Bryzgalov's pad for a 2-0 lead.

Shots were 12-2 for the Penguins after that goal. Penguins fans rejoiced and cheered while Flyers fans simultaneously threw bricks through their televisions. Ok, maybe that was just me. Whatever. YOU DON'T KNOW ME!

At this moment I ran to Mikey D and told him "Mikey...I'm not worried. Know why? I've been assigned to write tonight's game review, and the Flyers are undefeated when I'm assigned the review. So they HAVE to win. Right?" 

The Flyers - remembering that I was writing the review - turned on the jets for the remainder of the period. They fired good shots on Vokoun in two shifts on the ice, and kept the pressure in the Penguins zone.

Their efforts paid off during probably the oddest hockey play I have ever witnessed. A shot got through but was blocked, fell to the crease and was laid on by Letang. How the official didn't see this and call a penalty is beyond me. Regardless, the puck sat on the line and was then pushed away by the Pittsburgh defensemen, but only made it as far as another waiting player in white and orange.

Another quick shot, another block. Suddenly the entire Penguins team was in the crease save for Vokoun, who was just outside the crease trying to keep the puck away. 3 or 4 more attempts were fired before finally the puck got through off the stick of Grossmann. I didn't even celebrate. I sat here with my mouth agape wondering what in the world had just happened for a minute or so before finally fist pumping silently like a mental patient trying to uppercut an invading ghoul. 

2-1 Pittsburgh.

Shortly thereafter, Giroux laid a big hit on Dupuis to remind the Penguins of who he is: Captain Claude, the Ginger Jesus. You know, if Jesus had been a body checking, puck-potting machine. This continued to sway the momentum the Flyers' way and they made it count once again. Briere held the puck at the point and drew attention to himself, leaving Simmonds open in the slot. A quick pass to him left him one on one with Vokoun, and the Wayne Train didn't miss his opportunity. He took it across the crease and swung it past Vokoun to tie the game at 2.

And then the explosion happened. Every play ended in pushing and shoving. Rinaldo - who has played some brilliant hockey as of late - drew Engelland into taking a penalty to give the Flyers a power play. Shortly after that, some more pushing and shoving led to a Voracek penalty but, more importantly, a full fledged Smackdown between Simmonds and the player that ran his mouth about Briere before the game, Tanner "Who the hell is..." Glass --

Tough to say who won the bought as both men were like titans wailing on one another until finally they exhausted themselves and smirked as they parted ways to their respective penalty boxes.

The period ended with Gervais making a brilliant sliding stick check to block a pass from Crosby on a 2-on-1 chance late in the frame. After a surge from the Flyers they wound up outshooting the Pens 14-13 by the end of the first period.

2nd Period

The second period started off a bit slower than the first. Lots of stands the both blue lines, lots of neutral zone takeaways. On an early chance by Malkin, Bryz turned away a couple back-to-back shots. As has become the norm this season, Bryzgalov has been refreshingly consistent in guarding the twine. He has made the saves he has to make, and has shown flashes of brilliance more often than we were used to last season.

One such instance happened shortly after Coots took a bad penalty as he cross checked Neal ten feet in front of the official. On the power play, Crosby blasted a shot that was answered by Mr. Universe, a shot that many goaltenders would not have a chance on. Love him or hate him - in our cases it's most likely hate - Crosby is one of the best players in the history of the NHL. Any save you make on him you feel good about. A blast such as this one burns the twine 9 times out of 10. Bryzgalov says niet.

Seconds later, Crosby makes a boneheaded play causing a turnover and a breakaway for Max Talbot. Now I don't always side with people when they bash NHL officials. It's a tough job, and I sure as hell wouldn't want to be in their position. But sometimes you just can't let it slide when they miss the big calls. As Talbot was skating in on Vokoun, Crosby hooked his stick into the gloves and stick of Talbot. That, my friends, is cause for a penalty shot. And when Milbury says it during the intermission, you KNOW it's true. These people don't usually speak out against Sid the Kid all that often. However, no call was made and the scoring threat was disarmed with a nifty poke check by the Penguin net-minder.

The Flyers were awarded with a powerplay midway through the period when Neal was called for a dumb interference play, but after an early shot and scoring chance by Voracek, the rest of the powerplay fell flat. At this point the effort by both teams has been nothing but energetic and amazing, but there's still a stat that shouldn't sit well with the Flyers. The faceoff numbers popped onto the screen towards the end of the 2nd period: 21 to 11 in favor of the Penguins. This is unacceptable. Simple as that.

In the waning moments of the frame, the Flyers' 4th line impressed with a strong shift, taking everything they had and throwing it at the Penguins. Rinaldo, Harry Z and Fedotenko were all over the net, firing shots like it was their job, and stapling Penguins to the boards with hit after hit, never losing possession of the puck.

As everything was winding down, Adams took a penalty for elbowing, putting the Flyers on the power play again with less than 2 minutes to go. Great passing and offensive zone presence led to quick shots and a rebound left for Simmonds that was sent Voracek's way. He deposited the puck past a sprawling Vokoun to give the Flyers their first lead of the game with 9 seconds left in the period. 

3-2 good guys, and the Wayne Train gets himself a Gordie Howe Hat Trick.

It was announced during the first intermission that Matt Read suffered an upper body injury during the first period and would not return for the remainder of the game. More injury bug bites.

3rd Period

How about some early period excitement from the Fly Guys? Just 20 seconds in Voracek cashes in his 2nd goal of the night on a turnover by Vokoun, caused by good ol' Rusty Fedotenko to put the Flyers up 4-2. 

On the next shift, the rivalry between Malkin and Couturier was renewed as Coots gave Evgeni some rough treatment in the Flyers' zone that he took exception to. The Penguin forward responded with a couple of hits up high before dragging Couturier to the ice. Both players were sent to the box but Malkin was given an extra two, putting the Flyers on the power play.

Although they didn't score on this attempt, there were a lot of chances set up by more great passing and positioning. Giroux, who has been on fire the last couple of games, rang one off the post and set up more scoring chances. The Penguins ultimately held the Flyers power play off for a successful kill.

5 minutes into the period, the Penguins applied some pressure into the Flyers zone and it paid off. After a chance that was stopped by Bryzgalov, Kennedy picked up the rebound and backhanded it into the net, much to the dismay of our Russian goaltender as he displayed his anger. The Penguins had pulled within one goal.

A slew of back-to-back icing calls left the Flyers reeling back in their own zone for the first time since the beginning of the tilt. Shortly after, Simmonds takes the puck away in center ice and skates up on a 3-on-2 chance into the Penguins zone. He tried to wing a pass to Giroux but it was broken up by a defending stick. Fortunately for Simmonds, it was deflected past Vokoun and right into the net. 

5-3 Flyers.

Immediately afterwards, Tanner Glass gets called on a slash on Rinaldo and is assessed a double minor. You know Tanner Glass - he's the one who called Danny Briere the dirtiest player in the NHL. Regardless, the Flyers had a 4 minute power play on their hands. Also, let me just take a minute to say that Rinaldo has been nothing short of great for a good stretch of games. He knows his role and he plays it perfectly.

During the powerplay, the game clock suddenly vanished and remained missing for the rest of the play until the game was stopped after a high stick caught Engelland in the face. Knuble was assessed a double minor as Engelland was cut on the play with 8 minutes left in the game. Second later, Fedotenko hit Neal right in the helmet for another high sticking call. 5-on-3 PK for a full 2 minutes.

Talbot blocked a shot, resulting in his stick being broken. The Flyers, essentially in a 5-on-2 situation, couldn't contain the Penguins' gunners and Neal brought his team back to within one goal. Because the double-minor occurred first, the Flyers did not get a man out of the box and it remained 5-on-3 for the Penguins.

Bryzgalov turned away a few huge chances, but Talbot was then called for closing his hand on the puck in his own zone, thus increasing the time left on the 5-on-3. The Flyers were basically spoon-feeding the Penguins a chance to tie - and win - the game. The Penguins once again deposited the puck into the back of the net, but it was looked at upstairs. Sure enough, Kunitz had kicked the puck into the net. No goal, but the Flyers remained shorthanded by 2 men for another 25 seconds.

Sliding saves and blocks by the penalty killers, as well as brilliant saves by Bryzgalov, killed off the rest of the penalties, but the Penguins continued to pressure in the Flyers zone with under 3 minutes left in the game. Bryzgalov kept the team alive with save after save as the boys struggled to clear the zone.

Eventually the Flyers caved in on themselves, allowing Sutter to wrap around and pound one past Bryzgalov to tie the game with only 2 minutes left. Kunitz almost slammed one home immediately after play resumed by Bryzgalov made a remarkable save, sending the play the other way. Voracek - clearly not about to let this game end in the Penguins' favor - pots his third of the night for a hat trick.

With one minute left Vokoun raced to the bench to give the Penguins a 6th skater. With just seconds left the Penguins had a late chance that was kept out of the net by Bryzgalov and the Flyers' defense. The boys in Orange and Black held off their PA rivals for a 6-5 win.

Normally I'd have some other notes and thoughts on the game and the team, but I think I have to go take a nap now. The Flyers played a full 60-minute game and they came away with 2 points without giving the Penguins 1. That is all that needs to be said. Amazing effort all around. Good night, unbelievable hockey.

P.S. -- The Flyers are 4-0-0 in games I am assigned to review. And it feels sooooo good.

P.P.S -- Enjoy the .gif below

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