Flyers beat Pens, advance to second round

Early Sunday, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins continued their cross state battle of Pennsylvania in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The first five games of the series were unbelievable, setting NHL and club records for both teams.  Game six was staged to be one of the most exciting games of the series if the Penguins could pull through, forcing a game seven.

The Flyers were going into Sunday’s game with the series lead 3-2 as they prepared for game six at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.   The Flyers needed a full team effort and good goaltending to advance, while Pittsburgh was hoping their two stars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, would step up and force a game seven.

From the drop of the puck, Philly was ready to make a statement.  Within five seconds of the start of the game, Flyers star Claude Giroux connected with a huge hit on Sidney Crosby, firing up the 20,000 fans.  About 30 seconds after the hit, Giroux scored his sixth goal of the series, going top shelf on goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.  Claude had an outstanding series (6 goals and 8 assists) and today he elevated it.

“When the best player in the world comes up to you and says, ‘I don’t know who you plan on starting tonight, but I want that first shift,’” Laviolette said, “that says everything you need to know about Claude Giroux.”

According to Danny Briere, Giroux also came up to him 10 seconds before the opening faceoff and said, “Watch the first shift.”

The Penguins were the favorite to win the Stanley Cup, especially with the return of Sidney Crosby.  They fought off elimination twice after falling behind in the series 3-0.  Fleury showed signs of greatness in game 5 stopping all but one shot and gaining the confidence to come back in the series.  Goaltending was not at a premium for either teams, but if Pens were to force a game 7, they would need an outstanding performance from Fleury and flawless play to do so.

”We needed to play perfect hockey to stay in this series, to win this series, and we didn’t get the kind of start we needed today,” Crosby said. ”We felt like we could get it back to Pittsburgh, and now we have some time to think about why we didn’t.”

Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov played great, stopping 30 of 31 shots.  The only goal that was given up came off the stick of Evgeni Malkin on a Pittsburgh power play.  Some of the shots came at key moments of the game where the momentum could shift to the Pens.  Bryzgalov’s numbers were eye opening the first five games of the series, giving up 20 goals on 132 shots.  But the defense really made the difference today, blocking 40 shots in front of their netminder.

In the first five games, whoever scored first ended up losing, but today the Flyers ended the chance for a comeback.  Their power play in the series was unbelievable, scoring 12 goals on 23 attempts, setting a new franchise record.  The wild cross-state rivalry ended with a Flyers win 5-1 in the sixth game of the series.  Both teams combined for 56 goals for an average of 9.33 per game.  There were a combined 24 goals on special teams going 21 for 52.  The Flyers also scored three shorthanded goals.

After the action packed series was over, both teams lined to shake hands along with their coaches, which is a tradition during the playoffs at the end of every series.  While the Pittsburgh Penguins head back home and start packing their gear, the Philadelphia Flyers will rest the next few days as they wait and see who their opponent will be so they can start preparing for the second round.