Jan 7, 2010, 10:58 PM EDT
Dating back to last Wednesday, the game at Madison Square Garden right before the Winter Classic, the Flyers have chased the opposing team's starting goalie to the bench early in three out of five games. In one of the remaining two, they scored six goals on a guy who was left to bleed on the ice for 60 minutes.
The biggest key to this trend is obviously that the Flyers are scoring in bunches early. These are the waves we heard would be coming with Peter Laviolette's plan of attack, and tonight was the true test we needed to see before we could be sure that the Flyers had shaken off their awful slump. Clearly there's still progress to be made, but at least we can dispense with the idea that the Flyers are only winning over lower-quality opponents.
Playing on the second night in a row, the Flyers went into a hostile building, took the ice in front of a loud, packed house of the fans that hate them the most, and they destroyed the Penguins, 7-4.
There were some tense moments, and the Pens showed that they can still apply dangerous pressure and score huge goals. We've had our fun at Sidney Crosby's expense over the years, but he's had more at ours. Before we get to the praise-a-palooza of our guys, we'll acknowledge that the Flyers still can't completely stop Crosby, who scored twice tonight (one of which should have been blown dead on a clear offsides) and was an absolute beast in the faceoff circle. They did control the damage well though.
Now that that's out of the way…
The greatest sight of the night was Marc-Andre Fleury striding toward the Penguins bench. That had to give the Flyers some extra legs on a night when they would need them. MAF was the difference in the last meeting between the teams, particularly in the shootout. Tonight he could be seem slamming equipment around the bench just moments into the second period.
Two Flyers had breakout games after being quiet for too long—Jeff Carter and James van Riemsdyk each scored twice, with Riemer scoring basically the same exact goal on two different Penguins goalies. Sprung both times on great passes from Arron Asham, JVR used the same move to spread the legs and take the the five hole. That's three goals in the last two days for the rookie.
Michael Leighton gets some massive credit for this win. Those four goals could've easily been seven or eight if not for some huge saves at clutch moments. Al Morganti said it best in the recap—this was probably a more impressive performance than even Leighton's shutout over the Rangers. The Pens sent a frenzy at him, and he turned away 35 shots. There were some defensive lapses, and Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn had a few rough moments out there. Both finished in the minus column, though Timonen played a key role in Carter's turn-and-burn goal.
Meanwhile, the pairing of Pronger and Carle had a great night. Each scored a goal and were a plus-3. Carle hadn't scored in 32 games. The Flyers scored twice on the powerplay, and didn't allow a goal while killing theirs off.
Highlights for this game are probably best viewed in a full clip:
We'd be remiss not to mention the WTF moment of the night, which came when Simon Gagne seemingly scored a short-handed goal, jamming a puck that deflected in front of the end boards past Brent Johnson. The play was whistled dead as a non-goal, which was understandable given the angle of the zebra skating in to see it. But, replays shown on Comcast SportsNet's feed showed the puck disappearing into the cage, then reappearing when Johnson kicked his pad out from behind the goal line. It was clearly a goal to me, the announcers, and even the guys at thepensblog (and that's gotta be the clincher).
Still, even after review, it was denied. Both the Flyers PR and Pensblog tweeted that FSN Pittsburgh did NOT show the tell-tale replay until AFTER it was waived off. I don't know what feeds the war room in Toronto has, but it was a disturbing display to say the least. And that's all we will say on it.
Always easier to just move on when the FLYERS WIN.
What were your highlights? We've left plenty of room for some more.
Are the Flyers back on the train?
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