From start to finish, Sundays Penguins-Flyers game had a playoff feel to it, although it was very similar to so many regular season games between two teams that dislike each other.
It was very much the kind of playoff hockey weve seen in the past against the Penguins.
And unless either the Pens or Flyers win the Atlantic Division, these teams are likely to face each other in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Last season, the Pens came into Philly with an 11-game winning streak with Sidney Crosby in the lineup. The Flyers ended that streak.
The exact same thing happened on Sunday in the 3-2 Flyers overtime win (see story).
Pittsburgh players lauded the play of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who had 38 saves.
He played well, said Pens defenseman Kris Letang. A couple key saves here and there, but I think we put ourselves in trouble by taking penalties and giving them momentum there.
At the end of the day, they try to create scrum and they try to slow the game down and we try to speed the game up, so it was important for us to not get in there.
Sidney Crosby echoed those sentiments.
Yeah, I had a couple of good chances in overtime, Crosby said. We just need to execute, hopefully those go in. Give their goalie credit. He did a good job here tonight. He made some big saves.
In so many ways, the game had sprinkling of nastiness we saw in the 2009 playoff series between these two clubs. Pittsburgh won the opening-round series in six games, en route to its last Stanley Cup.
Defenseman Brooks Orpik said that the Flyers goaded the Pens into playing their kind of game and taking bad penalties. The Pens had nine penalties in the game.
Yeah, they try to keep up the pace, Orpik said. I think the shots were three to one, the pace was great that we were playing with. Then that stuff after the whistle just slows down the pace and that's what they want. We fed right into it, so it's something we'll address and move forward with I guess.
Orpik said Kimmo Timonens power play goal to start the Flyers third period rally wasnt as pivotal as the Flyers drawing penalties.
I think it was just the stuff us getting involved after the whistle, Orpik said. The goal was a product of that. I'm not sure exactly what happened on the PK, how Timonen got so open, but that stuff we'll look at on the video. You can dissect the goal, but really it was just the energy that we provided them after whistles.
Pens coach Dan Bylsma wasnt happy with the officiating.
I think the first half of the game, their first 30 minutes was the type of game we liked, he said. I liked the way we played and we had offensive zone on, shots.
I think really the extracurricular stuff was the turning point in the game. It was a situation where you know they targeted players after the whistle and didn't get penalized. I think that allowed them to get back in the game.
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