For days, the Flyers have talked about the complete-team, complete-game effort they knew they were capable of but hadn't yet executed.
It took them six games, but that's exactly what they accomplished Sunday afternoon.
With their 5-1 win, they finally put this crazy Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Penguins behind them. It took them until Game 6, but the Flyers finally put together the full 60-minute game theyve been talking about for days.
Now, they gain some much-needed time for rest and repair as they await their second-round opponent.
The Flyers had shown signs of brilliance in their Game 5 loss in Pittsburgh, but there was far too much theyd struggled with. They allowed too many clean shots on their goaltender and they simply couldnt win their battles during 5-on-5 play.
In order to put away the Penguins and end the series on their third attempt at doing so, the Flyers knew they needed to correct those errors -- and they needed to do it at home in the afternoon, a time and a place theyd struggled with all season.
Claude Giroux, for one, clearly wasnt bothered by the games early start time. He started his first shift with a bang, crushing Sidney Crosby in neutral ice to wake up the Wells Fargo Center crowd.
He followed it up only 32 seconds into the game by scoring the afternoons first goal.
Skating into the Pens zone, Giroux held the puck just long enough to pick his spot above Marc-Andre Fleurys shoulder and whip the puck past the Penguins netminder to give the Flyers the early lead. It was the Flyers first even-strength goal since Game 4.
But the team didnt make things easy for the next stretch. After Girouxs goal, which was scored on the Flyers first shot of the game, the team went without a shot for more than eight minutes. Ilya Bryzgalov and the defense weathered a storm of Penguins shots to maintain the Flyers lead -- setting a tone of shot-blocking they continued throughout the remainder of the effort, clearly frustrating the Penguins every chance they got.
And the Flyers were able to add to that frustration on their first power play of the game.
A nice set up led to a loose puck Fleury simply couldnt find. But Scott Hartnell saw it. Hartnell charged at the net and dove, stick first, into the crease, knocking the puck past Fleury to give the Flyers the 2-0 lead that they carried into the first intermission.
But it was the Penguins who hit the ice to start the second period with fire and determination. They peppered Bryzgalov with a number of early shots and good pressure. Bryz, who has received a fair deal of pressure and has been the subject of injury rumors in recent days, managed to stand tall through the brunt of it.
The Flyers escaped the opening minutes of the period unscathed, and added to their lead. Erik Gustafsson, the rookie defenseman playing in only his second-ever NHL playoff game, took what looked to be a simple throwaway, put-pressure-on-net shot that somehow slipped past Fleury.
Gustafsson, in the lineup in place of the injured Nicklas Grossmann, had arguably one of his best games yet during his time with the Flyers. He found himself charged with stopping Pens sniper Evgeni Malkin again and again -- but was, for the most part, stellar when paired up against big No. 71.
But Malkin and the Penguins continued to fight, and a hooking call to Kimmo Timonen allowed them to capitalize. The Flyers, actually, had tripped up the Penguins on shots during the Timonen call, but it resulted in a Pens goal nonetheless. Malkin skated in and beat Bryzgalov to put Pittsburgh on the board.
In a series where nothing has been certain -- not three-goal leads, not three-game leads -- the crowd exhaled only because Danny Briere was able to answer Malkins goal only 34 seconds later.
Brieres goal, which trickled through Fleurys five-hole, required a review, but lifted the Flyers to 4-1, a score they held in place into the third period. The home stretch.
Brayden Schenn added an empty-net goal to make the final score 5-1.
E-mail Sarah Baicker at firstname.lastname@example.org