(Philadelphia, PA) – The Philadelphia Flyers jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead and were able to hold on for a 4-2 victory in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Penguins on Thursday night at the Wachovia Center.
The win forces a Game 5 in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon (3:00 p.m., NBC).
The Flyers took their three-goal cushion into the third period before Jordan Staal’s two goals made the last six minutes of regulation very tense for the sellout crowd, but Joffrey Lupul’s second goal of the night into an empty net with 33 seconds remaining certified the outcome.
It didn’t end there though, as there were several altercations between the two clubs that have now met a total of 12 times this season. Scottie Upshall’s crunching hit of Jordan Staal behind the Flyers’ set sparked a fight between Derian Hatcher and Ryan Malone. On the ensuing faceoff, Mike Richards and Sidney Crosby traded slashes before Richards dropped his gloves and Crosby hid behind the linesman while never letting go of his stick. He did manage to throw a punch after that, however.
“There is no question it is a heated battle,” said Upshall after the game. “The battle of Pennsylvania has really started to come out these last two games. It’s playoff hockey; you have to play rough. You have to play hard in between the whistles and throw your body around and make some clean hard checks.”
Lupul’s third goal of the playoffs put the Flyers ahead early. His slap shot from the top of the circle deflected off of Penguins defenseman Hall Gill’s stick at the point of contact and sailed over the shoulder of Marc-Andre Fleury at 8:27 of the first period.
Danny Briere’s ninth goal of the playoffs and first of the series made it 2-0, when Fleury misplayed a shot from the point by Randy Jones, leaving the rebound for Briere to knock in at 11:48.
Another power play goal with 1:10 left in the period gave the Flyers a three-goal cushion when Jeff Carter backhanded in a loose puck at the side of the crease.
John Stevens was not surprised with his team’s quick start.
“I just thought we'd come out with real good energy. We were skating with the puck. We didn't just get pucks through the neutral zone, we had speed after the puck, which I thought made a difference,” he said. “Obviously, getting the lead was big for us, but we did some really good things in the game, especially early.”
“Tonight we had our legs. Hockey is a weird game but for whatever reason you could see at the start of the game we were skating and that is what we have to do,” added Hatcher.
The Flyers finished the game 2-for-4 on the power play after scoring just one goal on the man advantage through the first three games.
Biron finished with 36 saves to record his ninth victory in his first career playoff run, and stood tall when the Penguins clawed their way back into the contest.
“To have played the way we played in the first period really gave us a chance to, you know, be ready for their two goals in the third period and that gave us a cushion a little bit,” said Biron.
The game marked the first time that the Flyers as a franchise have won Game 4 in when trailing a series three games to none. They were 0-5 prior to Thursday night, with the last coming in 1997 when they fell to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The pressure now shifts back to the Penguins, who will want to avoid at all costs having to play a Game 6 at the Wachovia Center next Tuesday.
“You’ve got to win four games. If you go down to their locker room, they’d say the same thing, that the fourth game is the toughest to win,” said Lupul. “That’s not just a cliché, that’s just how it is.
“We were in a series in the first round against Washington where we were up 3-1 and they got a couple of wins, and it seemed like the momentum really shifted. That’s what we’re looking to do here, kind of shift the momentum. Now the same attitude applies for tonight: one more win.”
Ryan Parent, who dressed for the second straight game due to Braydon Coburn’s facial injury, registered his first career playoff point with an assist on the first goal. The Flyers are hopeful Coburn is able to return for Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh, and Stevens hinted that Kimmo Timonen may even be available for the game. Timonen has missed the entire series with a blood clot and was thought to be done for the rest of the season.
The Flyers scored the first goal in the game for the first time in the series. They are 7-2 overall when that happens, and 2-5 when their opponent scores first. … Philadelphia is 4-2 when leading after the first period, and 7-1 when leading after two.
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1 - 0 PHI
2 - 0 PHI
3 - 0 PHI
3 - 1 PHI