PITTSBURGH — Perhaps the only puck that didn’t find the back of the Flyers' net was the one that was ripped apart into two pieces.
The Penguins put on a goal-scoring clinic Wednesday night in trouncing the Flyers, 7-0 — the franchise's most lopsided playoff series opener (see observations).
“It’s one of the worst games I’ve been a part of,” Claude Giroux said. “We’ve got to play better and play with a little bit more attitude. We’ve got a day here to think about it. We’re going to get out of this together, win the next game and go back home 1-1.”
Whether the Flyers' captain was a throwing out a bold proclamation or just talking off-the-cuff in the heat of the moment, Dave Hakstol’s team seemingly has some major adjustments to make to have any chance at evening the series before sending it back to Eastern Pennsylvania.
For starters, the Flyers must find a way to contain, or at least slow down, the superstar tandem of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins' duo terrorized the Flyers from the end of the first period to midway through the third period.
Malkin scored on a beautiful backhand shot as he motored around Shayne Gostisbehere, and Crosby followed suit with a natural hat trick, including an incredible shot batting the puck out of midair.
“Two highlight goals from elite players,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “Sometimes we marvel at what those guys do out there and their instincts. As a coach, sometimes you take it for granted.”
The Penguins improved to 11-1 in the playoffs all-time when Crosby and Malkin both score goals.
Giroux, who finished the regular season with 102 points while leading the league in assists, was a minus-4 for the first time this season and like he’s done for much of this season, he put a tough loss on his shoulders.
“I was terrible. I made a lot of bad plays,” he said. “I will take the [blame] on the power play. I just gave the puck to them. It’s unacceptable.”
While the 7-0 shutout loss was one you couldn’t pin on Brian Elliott either, the Flyers' goaltender also couldn’t provide some timely saves to keep the game close. Elliott was pulled at the midway point after allowing five goals on 19 shots.
Game 1 was clearly Elliott’s biggest test since returning from core muscle surgery.
Regardless, Hakstol feels Elliott is the go-to guy for Game 2.
“Right now, my first instinct is yeah,” Hakstol said. “Coming back with 'Moose' when he was coming off the injury, he’s our guy. He’s a huge reason why our team was able to put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs. I think like everything else, we’ll look hard at it, but right now, my first gut instinct is that’s he’s our guy.”
With Elliott, Petr Mrazek or even Michal Neuvirth, how exactly do the Flyers slow down a two-time defending Stanley Cup juggernaut with one of the best 1-2 punches in NHL history?
If the Flyers can’t make overnight corrections, digging that defective puck out of the trash may be the only trick.