PITTSBURGH -- They talk constantly about playing Flyers hockey, about hitting the ice with their brand of hard-hitting, fast-skating, high-energy play.
The Flyers have said all along, before this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series even kicked off, that if they can play their game, they can beat anyone.
Perhaps the best example of Flyers hockey was on display midway through the third period Friday night at the CONSOL Energy Center, when Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tyler Kennedy was sent to the box for slashing. But instead of propelling the Flyers to a series-clinching win, their beautifully executed power play came up empty.
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury simply shut the door on shot after shot after shot. Flyers hockey was no match for the suddenly hot Penguins netminder, who seemed to get into a big groove after surviving that third-period power play. He went on to carry his team to a 3-2 Game 5 victory.
We did a lot of great things there in that third period, Scott Hartnell said. We were cycling, we were shooting the pucks, lots of rebounds. Just couldnt get one in there to tie it up. Youve got to take the positives out of the loss, even though this one hurts.
Having again failed to close out the series, the Flyers must now head back home with the Penguins slowly creeping up on their series lead, which stands at 3-2.
Before Kennedy was penalized for slashing Hartnell, the Flyers had been asleep at the wheel for about 25 minutes. They fell on their heels in the second period, allowing a 2-1 lead to dissipate and turn into a 3-2 deficit. But that power play seemed to jar them back to life.
Suddenly, the Flyers were operating on all cylinders. They set up plays exactly as theyd planned them and peppered the Penguins goal with seven well-placed shots that probably would have gone in any other night. But Fleury had found his comfort zone.
For two minutes with nary a break, Fleury stood tall in his net. First, he stopped Kimmo Timonen. Jakub Voracek was next, after firing what looked to be a sure thing. Fleury followed that up by silencing Claude Giroux. Then Brayden Schenn. Then Jaromir Jagr. And Danny Briere -- twice.
The crowd had been loud all night, but it was never louder than stretch during the final period. Fleury, Fleury, Fleury, cheered the more than 18,000 fans that had packed the arena.
When the games on the line, you try to make plays, Matt Carle said. And obviously, he came up huge for them. I think if we can play with that same mentality we had in the third for a full 60, well be fine.
All along, this has been a series about special teams. The Penguins won Game 4 in great part because of their success on the man advantage. The Flyers two goals Friday night were both scored on the power play, and the team tied a franchise record for power-play goals scored in a series, as well (11).
But for four games, this wasnt at all a series about goaltending. That suddenly changed late in Game 5 -- and it couldnt have come at a worse time for the Flyers.
He won them the game, Hartnell said of Fleury. Plain and simple.
Earlier Friday, at the morning skate, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said hed like to see his penalty kill win a game. He got his wish Friday night with Fleury at the wheel.
Tonight our team was good, and Marc-Andre was at his best, Bylsma said.
Fleury simply managed to withstand the barrage of Flyer shots and fell into a groove. The rest of the team followed.
Hes a good goalie, Claude Giroux said. We knew it coming in the series. It was probably his best game of the series. Were up 3-2 going home in front of our fans, and obviously were not happy about the results today, but the faster we put that behind us, the quicker well be focused for Game 6.
Everything happens for a reason, right?
With yet another chance to close out the series Sunday afternoon in front of the home crowd, the Flyers certainly hope so.