PITTSBURGH — The Flyers have shown remarkable resilience throughout their up-and-down season, and they demonstrated that trait — better than most ever expected — before a stunned sellout crowd Friday night at PPG Paints Arena.
Two nights after their most lopsided Game 1 playoff loss in franchise history, the Flyers did the unthinkable: They jolted the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins, 5-1, and evened the best-of-seven series at one win apiece.
Sean Couturier had a goal and two assists and goalie Brian Elliott (34 saves) played admirably as the Flyers avenged Wednesday’s 7-0 smackdown.
“We played a 200-foot game and did all the little things right,” said Couturier, whose team was 2 for 3 on the power play and was successful on all four penalty kills. “We’ve fought back from some tough losses and it was no different tonight.”
The Flyers became the fourth team in NHL history to lose a Game 1 by seven or more goals and win Game 2.
Game 3 will be played Sunday afternoon. The Flyers suddenly have the home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal, playing three of the final five games (if needed) at home.
The Flyers are 17-17 when a playoff series is tied at one win apiece. (They are 3-15 when down in a series, two games to none.)
Couturier had a hat trick and an assist in a Friday-the-13th playoff win in Pittsburgh in 2012. He continued the Friday-the-13th success in Game 2, when he played 27 minutes, 15 seconds.
“Funny little story,” Couturier said. “It was my grandmother who told me a few years ago when I had my hat trick that [a different Friday the 13th] was the day my grandfather passed away. I didn’t get the chance to meet him, but I guess he was looking over me again tonight.”
The Flyers were outshot, 35-20, but they kept the Penguins to the perimeter and shut down superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
“I think we did a better job of weathering the storm and not getting stuck in our zone for extended periods of time,” Elliott said. “That’s when you get in trouble against teams like this.”
“We took away passing lanes, shooting lanes,” said defenseman Ivan Provorov, who had a pair of assists and three hits while playing 27:30.
Provorov said the Flyers still had confidence in themselves despite the 7-0 drubbing Wednesday.
“We had no doubts. It was one game, and it doesn’t matter whether you win 7-0 or 1-0. It’s still one win.”
“We introduced ourselves into the series tonight,” said coach Dave Hakstol, whose team got a late empty-net goal from Andrew MacDonald.
Travis Konecny sped past defenseman Chad Ruhwedel on the right wing and, while he was going down to the ice, lifted a shot over Matt Murray to give the Flyers a 3-0 with 18:31 left in the third period. It was Konecny’s first career playoff goal, and it silenced a crowd that was already frustrated from three post shots by the Penguins in the first two periods.
A little less than four minutes after Konecny’s tally, rookie Nolan Patrick’s first career playoff goal made it 4-0.
While the Flyers were on a power play, Patrick scored from the doorstep after taking a ridiculous through-the-legs pass from Couturier and tapping the puck into an empty net with 14:50 left.
Seventeen seconds later, the Penguins got to within 4-1 as Patric Hornqvist got behind Brandon Manning and beat Elliott to the short side with a right-circle shot.
Just 47 seconds into the second period, Couturier scored from point-blank range after his shot deflected off Murray and caromed off defenseman Kris Letang and into the net to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead.
That gave the Flyers two goals on their first seven shots.
A couple minutes later, Riley Sheahan fired a shot off the post – the third time the Penguins hit iron in the game.
Claude Giroux’s turnover led to a Crosby breakaway, but Elliott stopped his backhander with 7:28 to go in the second.
The Flyers did a great job killing two power plays late in the second. The Penguins, who clicked at a league-best 26.2 percent rate in the regular season, had no shots on the first one.
The second power play — Wayne Simmonds went to the penalty box for roughing, but Malkin, who would have made Jack Nicholson proud, was somehow spared an embellishment infraction – was awarded with 1:37 left in the session.
Crosby, all alone to the right of Elliott, missed an open net with four seconds remaining in the second and then slammed his stick (and broke it) across the top of net in frustration.
Shayne Gostisbehere’s power-play goal had given the Flyers a 1-0 lead with 36.9 seconds left in the first period, ending Murray’s playoff shutout streak at 225:49.
“It was good for us to get on the board first, especially after what happened the last game,” Gostisbehere said.
After a questionable boarding penalty on Zach Aston-Reese with 1:30 to go in the first, Gostisbehere scored on a point drive while Patrick set a screen in front of Murray. The puck hit Murray and trickled into the net.
Giroux and Couturier set up the goal.
The Penguins had an 11-6 shots edge in the opening period and had two shots, both by Hornqvist, carom off the right post. The Pens finished with four post shots.
Elliott looked sharper than he did in Game 1, when he was pulled midway through the second period and the Flyers trailing, 5-0. It helped that the Flyers did a much better job of clogging the neutral zone and not allowing the Penguins to go into the offensive end with speed.
“We’re going to stay positive,” Gostisbehere said before the game. “Obviously, we looked things over and tweaked some things, and we’re going to have to put our best foot forward.”
When the Flyers fell into an early 3-0 hole in Game 1, “we started doing different stuff and got away from our game plan,” Giroux said before Friday’s opening faceoff. “It was just one thing after another. We’re going to put that behind us.”
They did just that.
The game was stopped briefly in the third period after some fans, upset with a referee’s call, threw debris onto the ice…The Flyers made no lineup changes from the opener…Phantoms forward Phil Varone was named the AHL’s MVP. Heading into Friday’s action, Varone, 27, was tied for the league lead with 70 points (23 goals, 47 assists)…Including the regular season, the Flyers are 5-1-1 in games following a shutout loss.