PITTSBURGH -- You can look at this 3-2 overtime loss two ways. One is that the Flyers were thisclose to tying this series and gaining home-ice advantage. The other is that the Flyers were thisclose to tying this series and gaining home-ice advantage.
It was an opportunity missed. It was a confidence builder.
Really it all depends on how the next two games play out.
The Flyers’ third-period lead hinged on two shots: One that should not have been stopped and another that should have been. Matt Cooke’s cross-slot pass found Jordan Staal with a whole net in front of him. Hounded by Braydon Coburn, he pushed the puck back towards Biron’s sliding skate. Moments later, on a bouncing-puck rush, Cluadde Giroux nudged a puck onto the stick of Darren Powe, who found the net from a wide angle inside of the right faceoff circle.
It was an uncharacteristically soft goal surrendered by Fleury, who later in the period stopped both Joffrey Lupul and then Jeff Carter on a 2-on-1 that would have all but sealed the win.
Despite the low goal total, much of the game was played at a breakneck pace, and this time the Flyers kept up. The game’s first stoppage did not come until seven minutes had elapsed. There were times when an entire set of players on both sides hit the ice between whistles.
Biron was spectacular throughout, using his glove to snap point blank shots from above the circle. The alleged shakiness of Game 1 was not present, at least partly because the Pens didn’t get to set up camp in the Flyers zone with anywhere near the frequency of Game 1.
The Penguins didn’t come out with near the intensity of their first period Wednesday, and the Flyers played possibly their most determined first period since swamping Toronto with five early goals on April 3. Stylistically though, it more resembled their 3-1 victory here on March 22, clogging the middle of the ice, chipping pucks and measuring risk. Two big saves by Marc-Andre Fleury on Jeff Carter and Arron Asham kept the Flyers from expanding that lead.
Two first-period numbers stood out. They were penalized once, scored on one of their power plays, and applied great pressure on the other. And they won nine of 17 faceoffs.
That flipped the following period, especially early, as the Penguins swamped Philadelphia in the early going, but could not crack Biron. When they finally did, it began as an innocent breakout play, but finished with Evgeni Malkin running a puck through Simon Gagne to Bill Guerin, he wrested into the high corner over Biron’s blocker shoulder.
Game 3 is Sunday at the Wachovia Center.