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

Another struggling pitcher gets well against the Phillies' feeble hitters

Another struggling pitcher gets well against the Phillies' feeble hitters

BOX SCORE

MIAMI -- For struggling pitchers, facing the Phillies has become like a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
 
Another rival pitcher searching for a cure got it Monday night when the Phillies suffered their 23rd loss in the last 29 games. This time it was Miami Marlins right-hander Edinson Volquez. He pitched six shutout innings and allowed just three hits in leading his club to a 4-1 win over the Phillies, who fell to 6-20 in May (see Instant Replay).

Volquez had gone 16 starts between wins.
 
"Every loss stings, I don’t care who's pitching," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We're just in a rut. We've got to battle our way out of it. We have to show up tomorrow and get after it. We've got to get more than three or four hits in the game."
 
The Phillies had just four hits in the game. It was the fifth time in the last nine games that they've had four or fewer hits. Only one of the hits was for extra bases and one of the singles was an infield hit.
 
"Once again, we need more offense," Mackanin said.
 
Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson completed a difficult month of May by allowing six hits, including a two-run homer, and four runs over six innings.
 
Hellickson surrendered a two-run homer to Derek Dietrich with two outs in the sixth and that was basically the ball game. Dietrich hit a high changeup. Back in April, that pitch would have been at the knees. But Hellickson has misplaced the pitch command that he needs to succeed.
 
Hellickson went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts in April. In May, however, he went 1-3 with a 7.04 ERA in six starts. He was tagged for 35 hits, including nine homers, in 30 2/3 innings.
 
"Command in general," said Hellickson, describing his problem this month. "The biggest thing is not getting strike one, falling behind too much. I'm not getting the quick easy outs I was getting early in the season. I'm trying to get ahead, just missing."
 
Volquez signed a two-year, $22 million deal with the Marlins over the winter, but it wasn't until this game that he delivered his first win. He entered the game 0-7 with a 4.82 ERA in nine starts.
 
The win was Volquez's first since Aug. 25, 2016, when he was a member of the Kansas City Royals.

Volquez isn't the first struggling pitcher to shine against the Phils recently. Eight days earlier, Pittsburgh's Chad Kuhl took a 6.69 ERA into a start against the Phils and pitched five shutout innings. In the series against Colorado, the Phillies were dominated by a pair of rookies. In the only game they won (in a late rally), they were held to one run over six innings by Tyler Anderson, who had entered that game with an ERA of 6.00. On Friday night, Cincinnati Reds right-hander Tim Adleman pitched eight shutout innings against the Phils and gave up just one hit in the best start of his life. He had come into that game with an ERA of 6.19.
 
So Volquez had to be heartened when he saw the Phillies on the schedule.
 
They are the get-well team for pitchers in need of a pick-me-up.
 
It's actually kind of sad.
 
With Odubel Herrera locked in the throes of the worst slump of his life and on the bench and Maikel Franco mired in a 2 for 21 slump and hitting .209, Mackanin is trying to push things a little. He gave Aaron Altherr the green light to steal with one out and runners on the corners in a one-run game in the sixth inning. Altherr was out at second on a close play and Tommy Joseph struck out to leave the runner at third.
 
The Marlins salted the game away in the bottom of the inning on Dietrich's homer.
 
"With our offense, I have to take chances," Mackanin said. "I can't sit around and wait for three hits in a row. We haven't been doing that."
 
The Phils have the worst record in the majors at 17-32.
 
They have lost eight of their last 10 and scored just 15 runs in the losses.
 
"It sucks," catcher Cameron Rupp said. "There's really no other way to put it. It's frustrating. But the only people that are going to help us are ourselves. Nobody's going to go out there and play for us, swing the bats, pitch, play defense. That's on us and we have to do a better job all around.
 
"We all want to be successful and get the job done. We just haven't been hitting the ball. There's no other way to put it. But the good thing about baseball is we play every day so we turn the page and come back tomorrow and try to get it done."

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins come alive late in third to steal Game 1 vs. Predators

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins come alive late in third to steal Game 1 vs. Predators

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins rarely tested the hottest goaltender in the playoffs in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Nashville.

They beat Pekka Rinne anyway.

Rookie Jake Guentzel fired the puck past Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a back-and-forth 5-3 victory on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Matt Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in Final history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37 minutes at one point without a shot.

"I think at the end of the day we're up 1-0," Bonino said. "We had a good first, we had a terrible second and we were terrible in the third. I don't think it's Xs and Os. We've got to work harder, compete a little harder, but we got some timely goals."

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions, trying to become the first repeat winner since Detroit in 1998.

All the guys from "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

"The impact of that moment and then the chain of events that happened after that with the penalty kills I think changed the course of the game," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said.

The decision gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge. Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead, they rallied and took over the game.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second and Nashville kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history -- and the first such period by any team in a Final game since the NHL began tracking shots on goal in 1958.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

"We didn't do a great job of (shooting), but we made them count," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "But it was a good finish there to get that one from Jake."