Brian Elliott

Flyers on verge of elimination after being blasted by Penguins in Game 4

Flyers on verge of elimination after being blasted by Penguins in Game 4

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Playing without Sean Couturier was too much of a loss for the Flyers.

The Penguins took a commanding 3-1 series lead with a convincing 5-0 win over the Flyers in Game 4 Wednesday. After scoring five goals in a Game 2 victory, the Flyers have managed just one goal in their three losses during the series. 

Evgeni Malkin scored a power-play goal just 4:33 into the game and Phil Kessel added his first goal of the series later in the opening period.

Penguins goaltender Matt Murray stopped all 26 shots for his second shutout of the series.

The Flyers’ power play finished 0 for 4 and is now 2 for 17 in the series. 

It’s the first time the Flyers were beaten in Games 3 and 4 of a playoff series on home ice since the 1989 Wales Conference Finals. 

Game 5 is scheduled for Friday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh (7 p.m./NBCSP).

• Unlike Game 3, the Flyers came out with a very timid start as they played with a real uncertainty considering Dave Hakstol had to make the necessary line changes in the absence of Couturier. 

Once again, the Flyers were hounded by Pittsburgh’s pressure, which eventually led to Matt Read’s holding penalty three minutes into the game. 

The Flyers were able to generate some sustained pressure after the initial 10 minutes. However, they lost all momentum when the Penguins converted a 2-on-1 between Malkin and Kessel after the Flyers had spent an entire shift in the Penguins’ zone. 

• The Flyers resorted to dumping and chasing more often in Game 4 as Pittsburgh clogged up the middle of the ice and denied them clean entries. 

The Flyers also had some inexcusable plays in the second period as they were caught offsides on a routine offensive zone entry and committed an unnecessary icing that led to their offensive ineptitude. As a result, the Flyers failed to generate a shot on net in the first 9:21 of the second period.  

• With Hakstol electing to keep Claude Giroux at left wing and moving Nolan Patrick up to the top line, the Flyers were weakened down the middle as Valtteri Filppula moved up to the second line and Jori Lehtera filled in as the third-line center. It presented clear matchup problems with the Penguins’ center combo of Sidney Crosby, Malkin and Derick Brassard. 

On a number of occasions, the Flyers would dump the puck in and the Penguins would retrieve it with no pressure. 

After falling behind early, Hakstol switched things up and moved Giroux to center with Jakub Voracek and Travis Konecny for a handful of shifts.  

• The Flyers desperately needed to have the better goaltending and that simply didn’t happen as Brian Elliott was pulled for the second time in four games after he allowed three goals on 17 shots. 

While the Penguins easily dissected the Flyers’ PK on their power-play goal, Elliott had enough time to deny Kessel’s goal as the puck slid through his pads. Kris Letang’s goal was deflected off Andrew MacDonald’s stick and Elliott was visibly frustrated as there was nothing he could have done. 

Hakstol had a quick trigger in pulling Elliott after three goals. In Game 1, Elliott wasn’t yanked until the Penguins made it 5-0.   

• Unquestionably, the Flyers’ best forward in this game was Nolan Patrick. The rookie center brought speed and a strong pursuit of the puck to his game that wasn’t matched by his teammates. 

Patrick finished with a team-high six shots on goal, while no one else on the Flyers’ roster had more than three.

Flyers come out swinging but knocked out by Penguins in Game 3

Flyers come out swinging but knocked out by Penguins in Game 3

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Two Penguins goals in five seconds doomed the Flyers, as Pittsburgh easily took Game 3, 5-1, Sunday evening at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Penguins connected for three power-play goals as Derick Brassard, Evgeni Malkin and Justin Schultz scored. The Penguins lead the series, 2-1.

Sidney Crosby, following his Game 1 hat trick, recorded his second three-point game of the series. He had a goal and three assists. Crosby now has seven points (four goals, three assists) in the series.

Travis Sanheim scored his first career postseason goal at 13:42 of the second period.

Pittsburgh has scored five or more goals in six of the seven games against the Flyers, including the regular and postseason.

The series stays in Philadelphia with Game 4 on Wednesday night (7 p.m./NBCSP).

• The Flyers fed off the energy of a sold-out Wells Fargo Center and came out buzzing in the first 20 minutes. Not only did they outshoot the Pens, 11-4, in the first period, but they almost had the same number of quality scoring chances as the game was played nearly exclusively in the Penguins' end.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was the difference maker, as he made some spectacular saves with his best coming on a glove save on a Nolan Patrick breakaway. If not for Murray, the Flyers could have led 3-0 after one. Murray finished with 26 saves.

• The Flyers left all the first-period momentum in the locker room after committing some untimely penalties early in the second period. Claude Giroux was whistled for slashing on Crosby and Jakub Voracek caught Conor Sheary with a hook and a high stick. In all, the Flyers were whistled for five stick infractions, which set the Penguins up perfectly.

• Pittsburgh capitalized on three power plays as the Flyers played with fire — and were burnt. Facing the most successful PP in Penguins history, a unit that finished No. 1 in the NHL, it was only a matter of time. The Pens' power play had the Flyers' penalty killers backed in on their first goal, with Brassard firing a near-unstoppable shot and Malkin uncorking a one-time to beat Brian Elliott on their second PP goal.

• All it took was two goals in five seconds for the Penguins to put this game out of reach, tying the NHL record for the fastest two goals in postseason history.

The second goal was set up by Crosby's impressive faceoff win against Giroux, not only winning the draw cleanly but maintaining possession and feeding defenseman Brian Dumoulin in the slot for a shot that Elliott needed to stop. That goal gave the Penguins a 4-0 lead, which completely sucked the life out of the Wells Fargo Center.

• Playing off the emotions of the crowd, tempers between the teams were apparent early on, which the Flyers fed off more than the Penguins. It was the first time in this series where raw emotion took over in the first five minutes and the Flyers channeled that into a strong opening period.

5 insights from Flyers' 5-1 win over Penguins in Game 2

5 insights from Flyers' 5-1 win over Penguins in Game 2

PITTSBURGH — Here are five insights from the Flyers’ 5-1 win over the Penguins Friday night.

No hearing for Giroux
The NHL announced Saturday morning they would not review Claude Giroux’s hit on Penguins defenseman Kris Letang. It’s absolutely the right decision, even though Crosby said after the game, “I’m sure the league will look at it. I thought it was high.” 

If it wasn’t for Crosby’s initial contact with Giroux, who was looking to avoid hitting teammate Sean Couturier, the incidental contact would have never taken place. Giroux was trying to brace himself, sensing a collision, but he even went as far to make sure Letang was OK and that there was no intent behind it. 

“Everything happened pretty quick,” Giroux said about the play.

Letang returned to the ice. Let’s move on.

Elliott answers the injury concerns
Behind a 34-save gem, Brian Elliott put to rest any questions regarding his health and concerns he could physically make the necessary saves. While the Penguins hit iron on four different occasions, Elliott was solid in sealing the post and his rebound control was outstanding. Dave Hakstol mentioned how well Elliott was seeing and tracking the puck which was clearly evident from his Game 2 performance.

Malkin's malaise
Not only did the Flyers shut down Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but in observing Malkin closely, he essentially shut it down himself. The Penguins’ leading goal scorer this season appeared to want no part of Game 2. Defensively, the Flyers limited Malkin’s mobility with the puck and he was completely sloppy on the Penguins’ power play forcing Pittsburgh’s top unit to exit the zone and reset on a number of occasions. While Malkin has the explosiveness to take over a game at a moment’s notice, the Flyers had him rattled and completely off his game. He should have been whistled for his own embellishment as well on Wayne Simmonds’ roughing penalty late in the second period.

Monster minutes from Coots and Provy
In the third period alone, Ivan Provorov and Sean Couturier played a whopping 23:21 of combined ice time. In breaking those numbers down even further, there were only four minutes and six seconds where either Provorov or Couturier wasn’t on the ice in that final period. The Penguins only goal came 17 seconds after both guys had just come off the ice, and they were immediately right back out there after Patric Hornqvist had scored. With the series now shifting to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4, Hakstol can control the matchups. As long as the games are close, expect to see the Flyers’ two top defenders having to manage some monster minutes.

Special teams was a luxury
Mike Sullivan called special teams the “difference in the game” in his postgame remarks. The Flyers’ power play scored twice and broke down the Penguins’ PK on their first goal when Carl Hagelin fell to the ice opening up a shooting lane for Shayne Gostisbehere. Up to that point, the Flyers had generated very little on the man advantage. More impressive was the Flyers’ PK unit that killed all four Pens’ power plays, although Crosby’s gaffe could have changed that. Special teams are cyclical and rarely do you see a carryover from one game to the next in a playoff series.