It took five attempts, but we finally got to see a real playoff-type hockey game last night between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.
The Penguins took a one-goal lead into the third period and made it hold up as they took Game 5 by a 3-2 score to keep their season alive.
Facing a 3-1 series deficit, the Penguins came out and played their best game of the series. Again, there is still room for some improvement in the defensive zone, but they did enough to win and that’s all that mattered in Game 5.
Marc-Andre Fleury was unconscious in the third period. He singlehandedly killed a power play by making seven saves, with at least three of them being highlight reel worthy.
The Penguins could not win a defensive zone faceoff on that chance and Philadelphia got several great opportunities as a result. However, Fleury was not letting another puck get behind him.
Fleury made 14 saves in the third period alone to help the Penguins stave off elimination for a second straight game.
Now, the Penguins will be looking to draw even in the series when they meet the Flyers for Game 6 tomorrow at noon in the City of Brotherly Love.
A few days ago, things looked very bleak. The Penguins were on the verge of being swept by the Flyers in stunning fashion. Nothing was going right at all and the series was all but over.
They came out with better attention to detail in Game 4 and improved upon it in Game 5 to get the series deficit down to 3-2.
The situation is still bleak, but the once-small shred of light at the end of the tunnel is now a lot bigger and brighter.
“So, you’re telling me there’s a chance?” (Side note: I was completely convinced this movie quote read differently, but I guess that’s why you check things ahead of time.)
I refuse to allow myself to think about the possibility of the Penguins winning the next two games at this point.
Can they do it? Absolutely, but they need to win Game 6 first.
That’s all any of us as fans or the Penguins’ players can be focusing on. Win Game 6 and then worry about Game 7.
If the Penguins are going to win Game 6, Evgeni Malkin is going to have to shake off a dismal Game 5 and turn in a big performance.
Game 5 was the worst game I’ve seen Malkin play in a very long time, but it happens. Despite his great skill, he is human after all. We all have bad days.
He had a big game in Game 4 and I’m sure he’s frustrated that he’s been struggling in this series. Regardless, Malkin needs to keep his cool and stay out of the box for lapses in judgment.
Hurt the the Flyers on the scoreboard Geno and send this series back home for a Game 7 where anything could happen.
It’s also interesting that the team scoring first in this series has lost every game. I felt a strange sense of relief and fear when Matt Carle’s shot from the point ticked off the post and in to draw first blood in the game.
The only thoughts running through my mind were, “Teams scoring first are 0-4, could be a good sign,” and “Dear God, please let the established trend continue.”
Considering how hard Philadelphia was pressing to tie the game in the third period last night after an ill-advised retaliation penalty was called on Tyler Kennedy, it would be safe to assume that the Flyers will come out buzzing in Game 6.
Like every road team in the playoffs, the Penguins will have to weather the storm and survive the first 10 minutes of the period.
The biggest thing the Penguins can do to help their cause is to stay out of the box. They’ve played the Flyers well at 5-on-5 to this point in the series.
The Flyers have scored 11 power play goals in 20 chances (55 percent). Keep in mind, the Penguins only allowed 33 power play goals this entire season and killed penalties at an 87.8 percent rate.
Philly has shown they can score practically at will on the Penguins while on the power play, so stay out the box and make them beat you at even strength.
Pittsburgh has also done a better job of staying out of the post-whistle shenanigans that they were all too eager to participate in for the first three games. There’s no need to send physical messages. Send them a message on the scoreboard where it counts.
Over the course of the last two games, the Flyers have shown signs of frustration from late hits to breaking sticks. At minimum, the Penguins have planted a seed of doubt in the collective minds of the Flyers. What that seed turns into remains to be seen.
It may sound cliche, but we all just need to take it one day at a time, one game at a time.
It’s not over yet.
You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sheavedice