Two Hat Tricks, Two Former Penguins Score, Flyers Up 2-0 After Historic Night

Two Hat Tricks, Two Former Penguins Score, Flyers Up 2-0 After Historic Night

What more can we ask from this series, from this game?!
The Flyers once again allowed an early—and we mean EARLY—lead, yet came back and won a see-saw game of pond hockey. Rookie Sean Couturier scored his first, second, and third career playoff goals, Claude Giroux added a hat trick of his own and set a new Flyers franchise record for points in a game. To make it all the more sweet, a pair of former Penguin playoff legends scored huge goals for the Flyers en route to an 8-5 Philadelphia win. 
Now up 2-0 in the series, the Flyers bring games 3 and 4 back to Philadelphia. They have never lost a series after being up 2-0. They're 17-0 after winning the first two games of a series. But don't think the Penguins are afraid of stats and trends. 
More in a below on one of the most entertaining games of hockey we've ever seen, won by one of the most likable groups of Flyers...
If anyone was worried about the Flyers' chances of winning the game after Sidney Crosby scored 15 seconds into the game, they probably haven't seen much Flyers hockey this season. Kulp broke down the degree to which that was just par for the course in this matchup for the season and so far in the playoffs, and it didn't stop there. After letting up three Penguins goals in the first period of game 1, they did it again in game 2. This time the Flyers at least managed a first period goal of their own, but just as they did in the series opener, they let up a Pens tally in the final minute of the frame. 
That kind of thing is so often a back-breaker. Not with this Flyers team. 
It's obviously still not ideal, but in the context of the complete game, it's not at all troubling either. The Flyers were outscored by only one team in the NHL this season—the Penguins. In these two games, we've seen what happens when the league's elite offense square off. It's not a matter of starting quickly the way it is in a game where teams are more prone to lock down and control tempo defensively. This is a battle of endurance, longevity, and depth from forwards to defense. 
And so far, the Flyers are winning it at every level. Outscoring a team that boasts a pair of Hart Trophy winners and NHL leading scorers? That's saying something. 
We're not going to get into a play-by-play breakdown of this one. There were so many goals it'd be pointless. Here's a look at the key elements in brief. 
LAVVY UPThe game got off to a frenzied start. The Flyers had their chances, but were outplayed; the Penguins took every opportunity to finish checks, and made the most of their opportunities. Peter Laviolette was PISSED at the intermission (photos and video of that here), and whatever he said once again helped turn things around. In the second period, the Flyers reversed the scoring trend, winning the frame by a 3-1 count and sending the game into the third tied. 
IT WAS ALL A DREAM...Sean Couturier has been tasked in this series with muting the other team's top scoring line. Juicy may be just 19 years old, but Peter Laviolette has trusted him from the beginning. He's played some important shifts since the beginning, and down the stretch, given even greater responsibilities. So far, he's not only kept Evgeni Malkin from lighting the lamp, he's also scored three goals of his own and assisted on another. Plus/Minus can be a misleading stat, but it's telling that Malkin was a MINUS FOUR in the game. 

MVP-NESS... AND FLYERS HISTORYCouturier wasn't the only Flyer with a hat trick... Giroux's empty netter to ice the game was his third marker of the night, the first two coming on opposite ends of the special teams battle.   Along with Couturier, the Flyers' French Connection was in full effect. Giroux assisted on a Max Talbot short-handed goal in the first period, then scored a shorty of his own in the second, this time assisted by Talbot. 
While it was great to see the Flyers win game 1 with G kept quiet, the Flyers were going to need his offense to win this series. He certainly came alive in this one. The Flyers rarely miss the playoffs, and they've had a number of outstanding scorers. On Friday night, Giroux took his place as the most prolific in a single night, setting a new record for points in a playoff game with six. Reggie Leach, Bob Dailey, and Mark Recchi each posted five. 
Flyers PR relays that Couturier's four-point night is the most for a Philly rookie in the playoffs since Peter Zezel did it on April 13, 1985, exactly 27 years ago. 
The Flyers have never had two hat tricks in a playoff game, which isn't surprising because it's f*cking amazing. 
SALT IN THE WOUNDIn addition to Talbot scoring once and assisting a Giroux shorty, he was a plus-5. Meanwhile, Jagr scored what would prove to be the game-winner when he spun around a defender and used his size to beat Marc-Andre Fleury. He must know how it feels when Flyers fans boo Crosby only to have him score huge goals in our building. Of course, Crosby never won us a Cup.
PEACHES AND BRYZGALIADon't let the goals against/shots on goal (5/28) numbers fool you. Ilya Bryzgalov was a monster for the Flyers in net. His glove was amazing, and he absolutely outplayed Fleury. 
Watch this. 
THE HOCKEY GODS ARE WATCHINGThe Pens may have scored two of their goals on the power play, but karma bit them as well. We saw that in the form of two shorties, but also a diving call on Kris Letang for acting like he'd eaten an explosive when given a little love tap. No penalties were called in the third period after the refs apparently decided to put their whistles away. 
That's about all we have energy for tonight, though there was plenty more action in the game. No recap will do that one justice, and we can't wait to see what these teams have for us on Sunday. 
HIGHLIGHTS

Instant Replay: No. 1 Villanova 78, Providence 68

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USA Today Images

Instant Replay: No. 1 Villanova 78, Providence 68

BOX SCORE

Seniors Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins combined for 44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and No. 1 Villanova held off Providence, 78-68, in a Big East game at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday afternoon.
 
Villanova extended a four-point halftime lead to as much as 20 points before hot-shooting Providence closed to within nine with five minutes left. Villanova then went on a 13-3 run to put the game out of reach.
 
Hart had 25 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Wildcats, and Jenkins added 19 points, four boards and four assists. Both shot over 50 percent.
 
Sophomore Mikal Bridges scored 15 points, matching his Big East career high, and also had three rebounds and three assists, and Jalen Brunson contributed 13 points to go with three rebounds and four assists.
 
Providence stayed in the game by shooting 13 for 26 from three against the No. 3 three-point shooting defense in Division 1.
 
What it means
Villanova improved to 19-1 overall and 7-1 and in first place in the Big East. The Wildcats have won five in a row since losing at Butler on Jan. 4.
 
Providence fell to 13-8 and 3-5 in the conference and 1-6 on the road. The Friars have lost six of eight since an 11-2 start.
 
Villanova is now 47-34 all-time at the Wells Fargo Center but 14-2 in its last 16 games at the South Philly arena.
 
Stat of the day
Providence shot better from three (50 percent) than two (44 percent). The Friars made 13 threes and just nine two-pointers.

Turning point
Providence trailed by just four at halftime at 35-31, but Bridges opened the second half with a steal and fast-break reverse layup and a jumper from the top of the key to start an 8-0 run that gave Villanova a 12-point lead. The Friars never got any close than eight points the rest of the game.
 
By the numbers
• Providence’s 50 percent shooting from three is the highest against ‘Nova since North Carolina shot 65 percent in the national championship game on April 4 in Houston.

• Villanova’s bench scored just two points.

• Providence’s 13 threes are the most by a Big East team against Villanova since Doug McDermott and Creighton had 21 in a 28-point win three years ago this week.

• Rodney Bullock led Providence with 17 points (3 for 5 from three), Jalen Lindsey added 14 (4 for 7 from three) and Isaiah Jackson came off the bench to score 12 (3 for 3 from three).

• Darryl Reynolds' last two double-digit rebound games have both been against Providence.
 
What's next
Villanova travels to Milwaukee for a Tuesday night game against Marquette. The Golden Eagles are 12-6 overall and 3-3 in the Big East with a game later Saturday at Creighton.
 
Villanova has won nine straight games against Marquette, since the Golden Eagles — then ranked No. 17 — came back from 18 points down to win 82-78 at the Wells Fargo Center in January 2012.