PITTSBURGH _ Penguins winger Matt Cooke said it was Marc-Andre Fleury’s most impressive performance of the season.
It was a performance that should cause Flyers’ fans to have lots of agita about now.
Fleury, the Penguins goalie who was a disaster in the first three games of the series, is now on the type of roll that can carry a team on his back.
Plain and simple, Fleury was the difference in Pittsburgh’s riveting 3-2 win Friday over the visiting Flyers _ the first playoff-type game in this wild series.
As a result, the Flyers’ series lead was trimmed to three games to two, with Game 6 on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center at noon.
In the game's final 12 minutes, the Flyers were relentless in their attack.
Fleury, now 6-4 in career games in which his Penguins have faced elimination, was especially spectacular in the third period as he made 14 saves, including seven in a show-stopping sequence while the Flyers were on a power play midway through the stanza.
"That's the best he's been this year, for sure," Cooke said. "He's played great for us all year and he's our guy, and with some of the quirky, weird things that have happened up to this point in the playoffs, we never lost faith in him _ and he proved why tonight."
Remember when the Penguins fell into a 3-0 series hole and their coach, Dan Bylsma, gave his beleaguered goalie a vote of confidence, saying Fleury would play the next four games?
Well, Pittsburgh _ which won Friday even though Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were pointless _ is one victory away from that happening.
Bylsma is looking like a master psychologist. Fleury did not allow a goal in the last two periods of Game 4 and he carried his strong finish into Game 5.
The Penguins talked in clichés after their live-for-another-day win, saying they are just taking it one game and one shift at a time.
They know history is not on their side.
In NHL history, only three teams have overcome a 3-0 series deficit and advanced to the next round. One of those teams, of course, was the 2010 Flyers, who did it with a magical run against the Boston Bruins.
Breakaways. The Flyers are 18-18 all-time in Game 6s, including an 11-8 mark when they have a 3-2 series lead….The Pens are 13-13 in Game 6s, and are 7-7 on the road in those situations…..The Penguins have outscored the Flyers in even-strength situations, 17-11, in the series, while the Flyers have an 11-8 edge in power-play goals and a 3-0 advantage on shorthanded tallies….Fleury said he has not seen a team with a more relentless power play than the Flyers….In franchise history, Pittsburgh is 26-23 when facing elimination…..The line of Danny Briere, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds is a combined minus-16 in the last two games…..Claude Giroux needs one more point to tie a Flyers franchise record for points in a series _ 12. It was done by Bill Barber in 1980 and Briere in 2010…With Nick Grossmann sidelined, Matt Carle played 29:40 and Braydon Coburn played 29:11….James van Riemsdyk played just 7:31 in his return from a broken foot.
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.