PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — At some point in this series, some actual playoff hockey had to break out between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.
It did Friday night as the Penguins faced elimination once again, this time within the friendly confines of CONSOL Energy Center for Game 5.
It turned out to be the lowest scoring game of the series with just five goals. At the end, the Penguins walked away with a 3-2 win to force a Game 6 back in Philadelphia.
“It’s still 3-2 and we have to go into a tough building and find a way to win,” said Pens’ forward Jordan Staal. “We’re confident in our game and what we’re doing but it’s going to be a really big challenge.”
Staal, Steve Sullivan and Tyler Kennedy scored for the Penguins. But the talk of the night was all about goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury who made 24 saves.
Both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were held pointless.
Matt Carle and Scott Hartnell scored for the Flyers, and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov had 20 saves in the loss.
The Flyers spent the game’s final 15 minutes doing everything they could to rattle Fleury, bowling him over on more than one occasion and forcing him to make stops with one or two players draped around his white pads.
Yet after four wild games in which his goals-against average and his confidence took a beating, Fleury stood tall to trim the Flyers’ lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.
“It was a little bit of action there, but I still thought our guys did a good job,” said Fleury after the game. “They blocked some shots and took guys, back doors and stuff, and the crowd was awesome too, being loud and giving us the energy through it. We’re lucky as players to have such a great crowd, all night even though sometimes it was easy saves, they’d still cheer and … that was awesome.”
KDKA’s Christine D’Antonio has fan reaction:
Carle scored his first goal of the postseason from the point with 2 seconds left on a power play to put the Flyers up 1-0 just over 8 minutes into the game.
But Sullivan saved a sloppy Pittsburgh power play — including one sequence in which Crosby and Malkin slammed into each other — by tapping in a pass from Kris Letang to tie it.
The Penguins, however, failed to play with the composure that highlighted the final two periods of Game 4. Malkin and Craig Adams both went to the box with penalties, and Hartnell scored on the ensuing 5 on 3.
On the brink of having a season with Stanley Cup hopes come to a stunningly quick end, however, the Penguins responded by ditching flashy play for more basic, responsible hockey.
The Flyers had the lead and momentum when Staal beat Bryzgalov over the glove 6:15 into the second period to tie it and give the Penguins an energy boost in front of the largest crowd in the CONSOL Energy Center’s brief history.
Then, Kennedy put Pittsburgh in front to stay just over 3 minutes later, ripping a slap shot past Bryzgalov for his third goal of the playoffs.
Fleury, who came into the game with an unsightly 5.43 goals-against average and an .817 save percentage overcame four games of shabby play with 20 brilliant minutes in the third period.
He made seven saves alone during a Philadelphia power play early in the third period to give the Pens’ maligned special teams a break. And for once, a one-goal advantage in this unpredictable series was enough.
The Penguins had never won a Game 5 after going down 3-0 in a series.
The Penguins now head back to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Sunday at 12 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center.
“We’re in the same situation going into Philadelphia,” said Crosby. “I mean, our story doesn’t change, so it’s still desperation mode for us.”
(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)