PITTSBURGH — Besides those within the Flyers’ locker room, the only group of people who may have seen this coming were palm readers, tarot card dealers and those who religiously pull out Ouija boards.
Friday the 13th was circled on all of their calendars for completely different reasons.
For the Flyers, it was a chance to prove Game 1 was a fluke, an absolute abomination that happens once every blue moon. It was an opportunity to bring a few of the hockey gods onto their side and convince a whole lot of people wrong.
“That was better,” Claude Giroux said after the Flyers’ 5-1 Game 2 win over the Penguins to even their first-round series (see observations). “I know we play a team game, and for all your doubters out there, there you go.”
The Flyers sent a message that needed no encryption. They’re here to stay just in case Penguins fans — or anyone else — may have thought they were mentally at the Harrisburg exit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike as the opening puck was dropped.
“I think we expected it,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It was pretty tough for us to walk out of the rink a few nights ago. That wasn’t us. In terms of what it says outside our dressing room, I don’t really care. Nobody’s really giving us a serious chance in this series. I don’t know if anyone still will, but I know we just got it down to a five-game series.”
Still, if you don’t think weird things transpire on Friday the 13th, Sidney Crosby certainly appeared jinxed.
On Wednesday, he had better bat control than Ichiro Suzuki as he scored goals out of midair with his back to the net. Friday, Crosby couldn’t connect on a pass 18 inches from the goal line that would’ve cut the Flyers’ lead to 2-1 after two periods. His frustration was obvious as he threw his head back in disgust and snapped his stick into two pieces.
“Obviously, It was a huge break,” Sean Couturier said. “Those are the kind of breaks you need to win games in the playoffs, and the gods were on our side tonight.”
“He doesn’t miss often and he didn’t miss the other night at all, so maybe it evened out a little bit tonight,” Hakstol said. “That’s the game of hockey.”
Perhaps even stranger was the case of Couturier. He had gone 18 straight playoff games without registering a single point. The last time he scored in the postseason was exactly six years ago to the day — Friday, April 13, 2012 — when the 25-year-old center not only scored but also registered his first and only career hat trick in this very same building.
Until this game, when Couturier threw a puck on net that hit off Penguins defenseman Kris Letang and trickled across the goal line.
“Yeah, it’s pretty crazy,” Couturier said. “Funny little story, my grandmother told me a few years ago when I had the hat trick it was [also] the day my grandfather passed away. I didn’t get the chance to meet him, but I guess he was looking over me again tonight.”
That’s borderline spooky.
Unfortunately for Couturier, Friday the 13th doesn’t reappear on the calendar again until July.
But with Giroux, Jakub Voracek and even a “Ghost,” there’s plenty of other stars they can look toward for Game 3.