With the Wells Fargo Center buzzing, playoff hockey returned to Philadelphia with fans wondering which Flyers would show up for Game 3.
Would it be the 7-0 losers from an embarrassing game one loss? Or the confident 5-1 winners from Friday’s equalizer? It didn’t take long for 18,000 plus on hand to figure it out. In a 5-1 loss dropping Philadelphia to a 2-1 deficit to their cross-state rivals, the Flyers fell victim to the NHL’s best power play unit (which went 3-for-6 in the game).
They also were unable to overcome early mistakes and unforced errors as the hope and confidence created in Game 2 in Pittsburgh dissipated two days later.
The defending Stanley Cup Champs just look like a mismatch — there’s no way around it.
“We know that’s not how to carry over what we did last game,” Flyers goalie Brian Elliott said after a forgettable afternoon.
The intensity was boiling over just minutes into the contest, as Chad Ruhwedel flipped a puck against the boards right into Travis Konecny’s face — leading to, of course, a fair portion of pushing and shoving. No penality was called on the act, nor the stick to Konecny’s back, fueling some early momentum for Philly.
A bevy of scoring chances followed fueled by adrenaline, as did defensive dominance — the Flyers did not allow a shot on goal until the 10:33 mark in the first.
But in true Penguins fashion, just one little mistake is all it took as a turnover by Michael Raffl in the Flyers’ zone led to a golden opportunity for Sidney Crosby (who also netted three assists) behind the net. He converted the shot into a goal and 1-0 lead midway through the period. An 11-4 shot advantage for Philadelphia meant nothing as things were about to go south — and fast.
“We played a really good first 20 minutes and were down by one,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “The game took a real drastic turn in the first six, seven minutes of the second.”
A Claude Giroux penalty to start the second did Philly no favors, as they fell deeper into a hole, 2-0, when Derick Brassard found nylon on the power play goal.
More Flyers’ mistakes led to more Penguins goals, as a 4-on-3 chance for Pittsburgh resulted in Evgeni Malkin’s one-timer strike to give the visiting squad some breathing room — and a slapshot from Brian Dumoulin just five seconds later put things more or less out of reach, 4-0.
Averting a shutout, a glimmer of hope came near the end of the second period off the stick of Travis Sanheim, who fired a shot passed Matt Murray from the blue line to chip away, 4-1.
The Pittsburgh power play, again, slammed the door shut on any forward momentum the Flyers had mustered, a Justin Shultz snipe made the score 5-1.
The Flyers are far from out of things as Game 4 will be at home Wednesday and Philadelphia will have an extra day off to regroup. If they can salvage a win on their own ice, they’ll return to Pittsburgh for Game 5 whilst also guaranteeing a return to Philly for a Game 6. If they’re unable to pick up a victory at home Wednesday, they’ll face elimination on Friday.