PHILADELPHIA – The so-called Battle of Pennsylvania is still relatively close, with Pittsburgh holding a 2-1 edge on Philadelphia.
The Battle of Pennsylvania captains isn’t.
Through three games, Penguins’ “C’’ Sidney Crosby has four goals and three assists for seven points and a plus-6.
On the flip side, Flyers’ “C’’ Claude Giroux has no goals, one assist for one point with a minus-4.
Of course it’s unfair to put all or even most of the blame for the Flyers’ plight on Giroux.
But Giroux is just coming off the top season of his career, finishing with an NHL second-best 102 points and a league-leading 68 assists.
Sunday, the most significant development surrounding Giroux was his questionable slashing penalty in the second period which led to Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin scoring Pittsburgh’s third goal.
Five seconds later, Pittsburgh scored again and the game basically was over.
Clearly, Giroux is experiencing a degree of frustration.
“It’s not time to panic here,’’ Giroux said after Sunday’s 5-1 loss put the Flyers in a 2-1 hole in the first-round best-of-seven playoff series. “We play Wednesday here, our guys are going to be ready.
“We have to put this one behind us and do exactly what we did after Game 1 (a 5-1 win on Friday night in Pittsburgh). We will look at what we did wrong and fix it.’’
There is no shame in getting outplayed by Crosby. He owns three Stanley Cup rings and an Olympic gold medal, so he’s won a lot of personal battles.
But the fact that Giroux is considered more of a Hart Trophy (MVP) candidate this season than Crosby just adds fuel to the fire of this personal rivalry.
Crosby looks forward to put a headlock on this series in Game 4 on Wednesday night.
However, he knows it won’t be easy.
“I think you understand, Game 3, they are coming back after a big win,’’ he said. “They’re going to come out hard. They’re going to be physical. They’re going to be on their toes so you can’t get caught sitting back and waiting for that to happen.
“I think we would’ve liked to initiate a little bit more (in Game 3), but I thought we did a good job of not making too many mistakes and not letting it build. There are going to be times they put shifts together, but when we needed to, we made some good plays. We got some big saves and that’s what you need this time of year.’’
Giroux hopes to be up for the challenge.
“It’s a seven-game series,’’ he explained. “Some games you’re going to play your best. Some games you won’t.’’
He was asked if he’s considered the notion that the Flyers’ best players have to play better.
“Yes,’’ he said. “There’s a lot of hockey left to be played here. I have no doubt we’re going to come strong in Game 4.’’
The Flyers have to do a better job stopping Crosby and a better job of getting Giroux going.
Things can’t keep going the way they are or the prospect of a long summer will get even longer.