The Flyers' run from worst team in the NHL to Eastern Conference finals died a year ago in Pittsburgh. They pick up this year's postseason run where they left off, ready for some retribution against the Penguins.
"They knocked us out, so even though it's a year ago, it's still pretty fresh in our minds," Flyers forward Mike Knuble said. "We have a chance to get back at them and win the series with their advantage and home ice."
Yes, the Penguins hold the home-ice edge when they play Game 1 of the best-of-seven series against the Flyers on Wednesday. All the Flyers needed was one point in Sunday's season finale to clinch the fourth seed and start the series in Philadelphia, but they wasted a third-period lead, blew their shot at a 100-point season, and have to hit the road.
The home ice didn't help the Flyers in a 4-3 loss to New York. The raucous, sold-out crowd meant nothing when the Rangers, who already had their playoff route locked up, scored twice in the third to stun the Flyers (44-27-11). Maybe some time away from the Wachovia Center might not be the worst situation for the wildly inconsistent Flyers.
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"I'm a little ticked off about this one," center Danny Briere said.
Philadelphia opened on the road last season in all three rounds and won two series, against Washington and Montreal, before they were eliminated by the Penguins in five games.
The Flyers went 2-2-2 against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins (45-28-9) this year, and three of the games were decided by one goal. It will be the fifth postseason meeting between the two teams and the Flyers hold a 3-1 edge. Both teams won 20 road games this season.
"It makes the road a little bit more difficult," Knuble said. "There are no easy matchups out there. You're going to have to win on the road and you're going to have to win at home, no matter where you're going in these playoffs. Yeah, it gets a little bit more difficult, but hopefully we learned a lot last year and we'll apply that this year in the playoffs."
Sunday's loss to the Rangers seemed to sum up all that was wrong with the Flyers down the stretch. Briere complained about a listless effort and said the Flyers were playing for a point instead playing for a victory. When they lost, the attitude in the locker room was more about, "Hey, we have to play on the road anyway," instead of anger at a blown opportunity.
"I think it's almost our destiny," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "It's probably my fault because nothing for me ever comes easy."
Briere was the only Flyer to openly criticize the third-period meltdown.
"It's not good enough," he said.
Pittsburgh eliminated the Flyers with a 6-0 victory last year and scored at least four goals in all four victories. Flyers goalie Martin Biron, who carried the Flyers in the first two rounds last season, knows he'll have to do a better job stopping the Penguins than he did a year ago for Philadelphia to play another series.
"We've got a team here that knows how to play on the road," Biron said. "We're going to go and do what we did last year in the first couple of rounds."