For the Flyers, the formula has been the same in their two wins in the first five games of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals: score first, don’t allow a power-play goal, and contain Sidney Crosby.
Another common thread: In each of the Flyers’ victories, Sean Couturier – who did a pretty good Kirk Gibson impersonation in Friday’s 4-2 win — has scored the game-winner.
The Flyers are 2-0 in the series when they score first, 0-3 when they don’t. Their penalty kill is 9 for 9 in their two wins, but just 10 for 15 in their three losses.
Crosby has five goals, nine points, and a plus-9 rating in the Penguins’ three victories, and just one point, an assist, and a minus-3 rating in their two losses.
Pittsburgh has a three-games-to-two lead in the series and can eliminate the Flyers on Sunday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.
Couturier said the Flyers have to “keep it simple, play our game, and don’t get worried about putting on a show or worry about what the fans think or react.”
The Flyers gave the Penguins five power plays Friday and killed them all. The Flyers had just one power play.
“We have to stick together and stay disciplined,” Couturier said. “That’s going to be a huge part of [Sunday]. We killed those penalties last game, but we put ourselves in trouble. We have to be more disciplined.”
That will be even more important Sunday because right winger Patric Hornqvist, who led the Penguins with 15 power-play goals during the season, is expected to return to the lineup after missing two games because of an unspecified injury.
“He does a great job in front of the net,” Crosby said.
“He brings so much passion to the rink every day and it’s contagious,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said.
As for Game 6, Sullivan said: “If we bring the game we brought in the final 40 minutes [Friday], then I like our chances.”
Coach Dave Hakstol was pleased with the Flyers’ defensive pairs’ play on Friday, “but I think we can all raise the level a little bit, and honestly we’re going to have to do that to push this to a seventh game.”
Shayne Gostisbehere, who was paired with Robert Hagg on Friday, has struggled in the series (minus-8).
Filppula’s big night
Val Filppula, who became the Flyers’ top-line center because the hobbling Couturier wasn’t close to 100 percent in Game 5, had three points – including a game-turning shorthanded tally – in Friday’s win.
“He’s a smart player and is always in good position,” said Claude Giroux, who played left wing on Filppula’s line for the first time.
“Fil’s experience is really important to us,” Hakstol said, mindful Filppula played on Detroit’s 2008 Stanley Cup championship team. “… No question he’s one of the guys our guys look to for leadership.”
Couturier, who missed Game 4 with an apparent knee injury, centered the third line Friday and played 16 minutes, 55 seconds, including 6:51 on the penalty kill and just five seconds on the power play.
“Moving forward, hopefully as it feels better, I can get more responsibility,” Couturier said. “But for now, I’ll just focus one shift at a time.”
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin got banged up in Game 5 and will be a game-time decision, Sullivan said. … After the Penguins won the series opener at home, the road team has won four straight. … The Flyers are 12-1-1 in the last 14 games Dale Weise has played. … The Flyers have used three goaltenders (Michal Neuvirth, Brian Elliott, Petr Mrazek) and three top-line centers (Couturier, Nolan Patrick, Filppula) in the series. … The Flyers had an optional practice Saturday. Neuvirth, Elliott, Mrazek, Matt Read, Travis Sanheim, Oskar Lindblom, Jordan Weal, Taylor Leier, and Johnny Oduya were the nine participants.