The Flyers found themselves in a familiar hole Monday night after dropping Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, 2-1.
Captain Mike Richards and his Fly Guys are down 0-2 in the Stanley Cup Final after another one-goal loss to Chicago.
This time, the Flyers tightened up their defense, got better goaltending and kept the pressure on the Blackhawks throughout the last two periods of Game 2 at the United Center on Monday night. But despite a power-play goal by a revived Simon Gagne, the Flyers still lost.
Coming into the Finals, Richards had six goals and 15 assists in the playoffs, but has a lone assist so far. Linemate Jeff Carter has been struggling, too. The Flyers generated an incredible amount of prime scoring chances down the stretch trailing 2-0, but came up empty except for Gagne's score.
“I think we could have started better tonight,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “I don't think we got outplayed, (we) outshot them, outchanced them... we had more than enough looks to tie up that game.”
Part of the key entering Monday’s game was for the Flyers to be more physical. They made a commitment to toughness by reactivating tough guy Daniel Carcillo before the game and the bruiser didn’t disappoint.
The Flyers played a penalty-free Game 1, a sign of good discipline that also raised the question about whether they were rough and tough enough in that 6-5 free-for-all.
There were a lot of tugging at jerseys, whacking at sticks, shoving of shoulders and slamming bodies into the boards in this game, played almost in mirror-opposite fashion from the opening night of the Finals.
The guys in orange and black clearly emerged with a higher level of intensity, with Carcillo's energy and antagonism helping provide an extra spark.
Laviolette sent Car Bomb out with Richards and Carter on the first line for the first period before later dropping him down to play with Claude Giroux and Arron Asham and moving Gagne back up to the top group. Carcillo took a foolish unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that he contested angrily toward the officials, though the Flyers survived the power play without any damage.
Carcillo proved he's more than just a scrapper and a yapper, showing some offensive skill by firing a pair of zinger slapshots at Hawks’ goaltender Antii Niemi during an intense middle of the second period that got the Flyers attack going.
The Flyers owned the second period, but because of Niemi and perhaps some tough luck they faced a 2-0 deficit heading into the last 20 minutes.
In net, Michael Leighton rebounded after a rough game that got him pulled early, but he gave up a cringer of a goal when fourth-liner Ben Eager raced in along the right wing and fired a shot into the upper-right corner for the 2-0 lead -- just 28 seconds after Marian Hossa put the Blackhawks on the board.
Gagne was like a completely different player down the stretch, punching a power-play goal past Niemi 5:20 into the third with Carter helping with a screen in the slot.
They had all kinds of chances in the final minutes. Gagne missed a rebound in front of star Blackhawks defense Duncan Keith that Niemi kicked out of the crease with his pad.
Niemi finished with 33 saves, including 15 in the second and 14 more in the third. Solving him will be the top priority in Game 3 Wednesday night in Philly.
Just like the two-game hole they faced versus the Boston Bruins earlier in the playoffs the Flyer must again find a way to solve the opponent.
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