PHILADELPHIA – To think the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins were going to take Friday night’s 5-1 beatdown lightly would be misguided.
Too much pride. Too much talent. Too much playoff experience.
The Flyers were well aware of this but doing something about it was a completely different matter.
Pittsburgh showed a sold-out Wells Fargo Center and national TV audience that one loss wasn’t going to knock it off its game.
Exploding for three unanswered goals in the second period – two of them a franchise-record five seconds apart – the Penguins carved out a 5-1 win Sunday, taking a 2-1 lead in the first-round best-of-seven series.
The series resumes with Game 4 on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
After doing a good job of shutting down Pittsburgh’s NHL No. 1 power play in Game 2, the Flyers allowed a whopping three goals while shorthanded in this contest.
In all, they handed the Penguins seven power-play opportunities, this after only giving up a total of eight in the first two games.
The Flyers put together a strong first period, outshooting the Penguins by an 11-4 margin and only allowing one shot through the first 10 minutes.
But then Sidney Crosby scored and some of that early magic quickly wore off.
It was still a competitive game until the Penguins erupted for their lightning-quick pair.
Evgeni Malkin kicked things off by firing a right-circle shot past Flyers goalie Brian Elliott at 6:48 during a Pittsburgh power play.
On the following faceoff, Crosby assisted on Brian Dumoulin’s goal at 6:53.
That goal tied the Stanley Cup playoff record for fastest two goals.
From there, it was just a matter of skating up and down and the ice and running out the clock.
It’s safe to say seven power plays allowed is a formula for disaster.
“The game took a drastic turn within six, seven minutes at the start of the second period, centering around some penalties,’’ coach Dave Hakstol said. “I didn’t sense any frustration. We had a good first period but we didn’t duplicate it at the start of the second.’’
Claude Giroux rued those missed opportunities in the first period.
“Yeah, I think first period we had a lot of chances to get the lead,’’ Giroux said. “Their goalie made some big saves for them and then we had penalty trouble which kind of cost us.’’
Giroux himself took a questionable slashing call which led to the Malkin goal.
“They’re a fast team,’’ Giroux said. “If you’re catching up to them, you’re going to have stick penalties (six of the Flyers’ eight penalties were stick-related).
Jake Voracek took a high-sticking penalty at 6:13 of the third period which led to Pittsburgh’s fifth goal.
“They don’t need many opportunities to score,’’ Voracek said. “Too many penalties, they score, game over.’’
Crosby got the Penguins off on the right foot by scoring at 10:25 of the first period.
A Michael Raffl turnover led to Patric Hornqvist’s feed to Crosby, who was crashing the net from the left side. But instead of shooting, Crosby went backdoor behind the net, circled out and beat Brian Elliott to the far post.
It was Crosby’s fourth goal of the series in just three games.
“It seemed like we couldn’t get any flow going,’’ Elliott said. “We were taking more penalties than we wanted to. I don’t if it’s frustration or not moving your feet. You lose control of your stick a little bit and that’s when penalties are called. We did it to ourselves. We have to make it a focus that we can’t be doing that.’’
The Flyers’ power play went zero for six.
“When we had opportunities on the power play, we really didn’t generate too much,’’ Elliott said. “They did a really good job of shutting us down.’’
Derick Brassard scored the first of Pittsburgh’s three power-play goals at 2:48 of the second period, courtesy of a Phil Kessel pass.
Down 4-0 late in the second, Travis Sanheim scored his first career playoff goal for the Flyers when his long shot eluded goalie Matt Murray at 13:42.
Sanheim might be a rookie but he’s savvy enough to know the Flyers can’t afford a repeat performance on Wednesday.
“Obviously we had a good start,’’ Sanheim said. “If we get a couple there, you don’t know how the game is going to turn out after that. But the penalties after that, we kind of shot ourselves in the foot.
“With the weapons they have up front, we can’t give them too many chances.’’
The Flyers stayed with the same lineup they used in Game 2. But now, having to win three of the next four, there might be some adjustments for Wednesday.