April 18, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal (11) celebrates his goal in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers during game four of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
In a circus-type atmosphere before and during Game 4, the Flyers fell into a pattern of taking bad penalties. Pittsburgh made them pay to remain alive in the wild, high-scoring series.
For two straight days, we heard how the Pittsburgh Penguins came totally unraveled in Sunday's 8-4 Philadelphia Flyers victory, putting Philly on the verge of closing out the series. With Craig Adams already having been suspended for one game for instigating a fight in the last five minutes of regulation, the anticipation of NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan's suspension announcements for two additional Pens players -- James Neal and Arron Asham -- dragged late into Monday night.
Pittsburgh had completely lost their focus and paid the price when the Flyers buried them with special teams goals.
The Philadelphia Daily News ran an embarrassing front page picture of Sidney Crosby as the lion from 'The Wizard of Oz', emblazoned with a headline proclaiming Crosby as "The Cowardly Penguin". Embarrassing to themselves and the city, not to Crosby, by the way.
T-shirts were handed out at the doors entering the Wells Fargo Center with "Guess What? We Don't Like You, Either!" in response to Crosby's comments following Game 3 about how he didn't like any Flyers' players. Not one. Flyers' fans laughed and danced in celebration, for with a 3-0 series lead, the end was surely near for the rivals from the western portion of Pennsylvania.
But something happened on the way to the much anticipated handshake line that would no doubt be forming at the conclusion of Game 4.
The result was a circus-type atmosphere that ended with a Jordan Staal hat trick in a 10-3 beat down, in what was the most lopsided playoff loss for Philadelphia since an 8-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres in Game 6 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Evgeni Malkin scored his first two goals of the series, and Crosby added a goal and two assists in the debacle.
The 10 goals allowed tied a franchise record for the Penguins, who scored 10 goals on the Flyers in a 10-7 win in Game 5 of the 1989 Patrick Division Finals. Mario Lemieux scored five goals in that game -- including four in the first period alone -- and added three assists for an amazing eight-point night.
None of this is to say the Flyers' players were over-confident. That did not seem to be the case at all; quite the opposite, actually. Philly knows just how dangerous a team Pittsburgh is, and the last thing they needed was the two day taunt-fest that ensued after taking the stranglehold 3-0 lead with Sunday's triumph.
Nothing like prodding the opposition, especially one as dangerous as a Penguins club that is backed into a corner.
After taking an early lead on a Claude Giroux power play tally just over a minute after the opening face off -- the first time in the series the Flyers had scored first in any game -- it appeared Game 4 would go the same way as Game 3. Pittsburgh was taking bad penalties and giving a Philly power play that was 6-10 coming into the game too many opportunities.
Following a see-saw opening frame in which the Flyers trailed 4-3, Philadelphia was 3-5 with the man advantage in the first, and the Pens were just 1-2.
That would be the last time the Flyers would get a sniff of a power play the rest of the night, and they would self-destruct during a second period in which they allowed seven power plays and yielded three PP markers.
Flyers' coach Peter Laviolette said his team has to be better at not giving Pittsburgh a tremendous amount of PPs.
"The plan was not to go to the box, I don't know how many it was, eight, nine, or 10 opportunities we gave up on the power play, which is probably seven or eight too many," he said. "We can't go to the box, we did, and we're guilty of it. And, we can't do it."
"Yeah there was a lot of penalties, but I think we kind of deserved those penalties," said Giroux. "The refs did a pretty good job. We can't be holding people's stick and interference. I'm not sure what happened, but I know we had a lot of penalty kills. Like we said earlier on in the series, they've got one of the best power plays in the league. You give them the opportunity, they're going to put it in. We've got to do a better job of being disciplined. We can't give that team a lot of power plays like that."
Pittsburgh scored five goals in the stanza to take a 9-3 lead into the third, and never looked back the rest of the way. It seems whichever team can jump out to a lead ends up relaxing and eventually takes bad penalties.
Not only did the Flyers lose their focus and play an undisciplined style in Game 4, it appears the Philly supporters did the same. Instead of cheering on their own, they were too pre-occupied with taunting Crosby and the rest of the Penguins.
"I think they keep screaming at him," said Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma. "He's going to keep playing."
Perhaps if the Flyers can concentrate on keeping it simple and making sure they stick to their game plan, they can close the series out in Game 5 in the friendly confines of the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Philly has won seven of the eight contests played at the building since it became the new home of the Pens.
What's for sure is it won't be easy to get that elusive fourth series win, especially if the Flyers don't keep a semblance of the discipline they need.