From the time the hated Penguins were putting the finishing touches on a seven-goal beatdown of the Flyers in Game 4, a feeling of dread began to permeate Philadelphia.
Could the Flyers really blow this series?
Thanks to Claude Giroux, Ilya Bryzgalov and a fierce defense, which blocked an astounding 40 shots, it turned out to be nothing but a false alarm.
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Giroux's goal at the :32 mark set the tone for the day and the Flyers never let up until they had sent the Penguins home for the summer with a convincing 5-1 victory to end this wild series in six games.
"I'm proud of how everybody responded today for such a young team,'' said Danny Briere, whose mid-second-period goal ricocheted off defenseman Zbynek Michalek and by Marc-Andre Fleury to restore a three-goal cushion just 34 seconds after Evgeni Malkin had finally put the Penguins on the board. "After the pressure was building up ... so many guys sacrificed their bodies today ... blocking shots, taking hits, not retaliating.
"I think, like everybody, I'll remember this series for a long, long time."
But probably not as long as the Penguins, who were considered Cup favorites when the playoffs began, and then dug a 0-3 hole that proved insurmountable. The Flyers kept the explosive Sidney Crosby and Malkin relatively under wraps, while repeatedly beating Fleury with a barrage of shots from all angles—including a franchise series record 12 on the power play.
Giroux convinced coach Peter Laviolette to let him take the opening faceoff, promptly sent Crosby into the boards and intercepted Steve Sullivan’s clearing pass before beating Fleury shortside to rock the Wells Fargo Center.
"Claude had a great game," said Laviolette, as Giroux added two assists to finish the series with 14 points, second best to Tim Kerr (15 in 1989) in franchise history. "From start to finish he made sure that the Flyers moved on to the second round.
"He was so adamant that he wanted that first shift that line match-ups didn’t matter at that point. He wanted to get out on the ice, he wanted to make a statement."
"Right off the bat, being able to get that first goal was huge to get the momentum,’’ said Giroux. "The fans right away got into the game and then we closed the door."
Bryzgalov, who looked shaky most of the series, stopped 30 shots.
Goals from Scott Hartnell and rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson made it 3-0 by the 5:25 of the second period.
It’s on to the second round, where the matchup possibilities remain wide open.
"We just beat one of the best teams in the league so it doesn't matter who we play next," said Briere. "It's going to be a tough battle no matter what team it is."