Flyers Lose Game 1

Almost seemed as if the Pittsburgh Penguins were playing last season's conference finals against the rival Flyers all over again.

The Penguins got a goal and an assist each from stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and shut down the frustrated Philadelphia Flyers' fleet of scorers for a 4-1 victory Wednesday night in the opening game of the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, idle for long stretches in the first two periods as his teammates controlled play at the other end, made 26 saves as the Penguins won their fourth consecutive conference playoff series opener.

Eleven months later, the Penguins controlled the Flyers much like they did in winning the conference finals in five games last season, when they scored at least four goals in each victory and finished it off with a 6-0 rout in Game 5. Dating to Game 4 of those finals, the Penguins had scored 12 consecutive playoff goals against the Flyers until Simon Gagne scored late in the third period with Pittsburgh leading 4-0.

The Flyers didn't like it, either, ending the game with three players in the penalty box as they tried to send a message through some physical play that Game 2 on Friday night won't be so easy.

This time, the Penguins put the pressure on early, built a multiple-goal lead while not letting Philadelphia sustain any offensive momentum and leaned on Fleury to make the big saves when the Flyers did make a push.

They also waited for Flyers mistakes, and there were plenty of them -- the first of which was Philadelphia not holding a third-period lead Sunday at home against the Rangers. New York's 4-3 victory meant the Flyers opened the series in Pittsburgh rather than on their home ice, and it made a difference.

The Penguins also were disciplined, mostly staying out of the penalty box at the same time the Flyers took several careless penalties, including a hooking call on a tired Arron Asham that led to Crosby's power-play goal at 4:41 of the first period. Asham couldn't get off the ice during a line change, stayed out for an extended shift and drew a pivotal penalty as Crosby scored 15 seconds into the power play.

Crosby threw the puck down low to Evgeni Malkin, whose rebound deflected off Crosby's skate, the goal post and goalie Martin Biron's right skate before settling into the back of the net. The goal was upheld after a video replay confirmed Crosby didn't intentionally kick the puck.

Tyler Kennedy made it 2-0 at 1:39 of the second after Braydon Coburn turned the puck over in the neutral zone, allowing Jordan Staal to start an up-ice rush that ended with Kennedy chipping the puck into the top of the net.

Philadelphia, held without a shot for the first 10 minutes of the second, finally started pressuring late in the period and was on the power play to start the third because of a Brooks Orpik elbowing penalty. Mike Richards put off a shot off the right post in the opening minute of the third -- a goal would have cut it to 2-1 -- but Scott Hartnell's tripping penalty shortly after that blunted any momentum the Flyers were building.

Malkin made it 3-0 at 6:28 after another giveaway. Mike Knuble tried to bank a pass off the back wall, but the puck skittered to Malkin and he quickly snapped it past Biron. Defenseman Mark Eaton scored four minutes later to make it 4-0, his first goal in 24 career playoff games.

Richards hit the post again later in the third, but the puck rebounded to Gagne for the only goal by the Flyers, the first NHL team in 15 years to have six players with 25 or more goals in a season.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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