PITTSBURGH – Like Brian Elliott said the other day, no one gets to this level without going through a little adversity.
Well, losing a game 7-0 might not be defined by the word “little’’ but you get the idea.
Elliott suffered through Game 1, allowing five goals on 19 shots.
But the Flyers’ goaltender looked like a completely different player in Friday night’s Game 2 at PPG Paints Arena.
Elliott stopped 34 of 35 shots, including a stone-cold save on a Sidney Crosby breakaway at 12:32 of the second period, and went on to lead the Flyers to a 5-1 win to even the first-round best-of-seven series at 1-1.
The series resumes with Game 3 on Sunday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.
After getting embarrassed by the Penguins in their first encounter, the Flyers came back with a much more disciplined effort. They were playing to even the series, of course, but they were playing for pride, too.
While they did take a number of inopportune penalties, their penalty killers were up to the task. Pittsburgh went scoreless on four power-play attempts.
Elliott played like a man on a mission.
Coach Dave Hakstol wasn’t surprised by the performance.
“I thought he just went about his business,’’ he said. “He battled hard, made key saves at big times. I think that’s probably the most important thing. So he did a good job for his teammates tonight.’’
Some of the Flyers’ key players were more effuse with their praise of Elliott’s effort.
“Moose (Elliott) played a great game,’’ said Claude Giroux. “So all your doubters out there, there you go.
“I still think that Game 1, he wasn’t off. We just could have done a better job in front of him.’’
Elliott didn’t try to make too big of a deal about his gem. That’s just part of his personality.
“It was just about a response,’’ he said. “I think we knew to a man that we didn’t play a playoff game in Game 1. We just needed to come out with that intensity that we have the past two, three weeks of the season to make it here.
“This game, everybody came out and played their role really well.’’
Goals by Shayne Gostisbehere (on a power play) in the first period, Sean Couturier in the second and Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick in the third made the difference.
Gostisbehere connected with 37 seconds left in the first period. With Pittsburgh’s Zach Aston-Reese in the penalty box, Gostisbehere’s long shot made it through a Patrick screen and eluded goalie Matt Murray.
“It was a great play down low with those three guys (Couturier, Patrick, Jake Voracek),’’ Gostisbehere said. “They were really battling and getting the puck up there (to the point).
“I think the guys got his (Murray’s) eyes pretty good there for me.’’
Gostisbehere said it was important to get out to that early lead.
“It was huge,’’ he said, “scoring near the end of the first period like that. It was good for us to get on the board first, especially since what happened last game.’’
Couturier doubled the margin 47 seconds into the second.
The center tried to flip a pass high across the crease to a charging Giroux. But the fluttering puck hit defenseman Kris Letang and dropped into the net.
In the third, Konecny rushed down the right boards, muscled past defenseman Chad Ruhwedel and finished the play for his first playoff goal at 1:29.
Then Patrick scored on a power play at 5:10 for a 4-0 lead.
Seventeen seconds later, Patric Hornqvist finally broke through for the Pens with a rush down the right side.
But Andrew MacDonald scored into an open net with 16 seconds to play to account for the final margin.
Can the Flyers keep the momentum going into Game 3? If they can get out to another good start like they did in this game, the chances are realistic.
“We knew they were going to come out like they did in the first game and I think we kind of weathered the storm,’’ Elliott said. “Not getting stuck in our zone for extended periods of time. That’s when you get in trouble when you play teams like this.’’
Crosby smashed his stick across the crossbar of the Flyers’ net after he missed a dunk shot as time ran out in the second. Although the stick blade went sailing through the air, no unsportsmanlike penalty was called on the play. . .Flyers are now 39-32 alltime in Game 2 of a playoff series. They have a 30-8 series record when they win Game 2. . .
Per the NHL stats team, the Flyers became the fourth team in NHL history to lose Game 1 of a series by seven or more goals and then pick up a win in Game 2. The others: Montreal Canadiens, 1919 Final (7-0 loss in Game 1, 4-2 win Game 2); Boston, 1953 Semifinals (7-0 loss in Game 1, 5-3 win Game 2) and Los Angeles, 1980 Preliminary Round (8-1 loss in Game 1, 6-3 win Game 2).
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