Pittsburgh 3 Philadelphia 1
PPHILADELPHIA — Sidney Crosby and the Penguins can finish off the Flyers back on home ice.
A sliding Crosby scored a goal that ricocheted off his skate, his midsection and into the back of the net to spark Pittsburgh to a 3-1 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
Marc-Andre Fleury was sensational with 45 saves and the Penguins grabbed a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.
Tyler Kennedy and Maxime Talbot also scored for the Penguins, who can eliminate the Flyers in five games just like they did in last year’s Eastern Conference finals.
Game 5 is Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Crosby had one goal in the first three games and the Flyers defence was doing a solid job of keeping the Penguins captain in check until early in the second.
He was right where he needed to be on a smart and sensational setup.
Chris Kunitz controlled the puck in the circle when Flyers defenceman Kimmmo Timonen slid on his belly in front of the winger to try and block a shot.
Kunitz simply flicked the puck up toward the net over a sprawled Timonen and Crosby came sliding in from the right side to knock in the goal.
The puck appeared to knock off the inside of his stick, then bounced off his body and into the net with Flyers forward Simon Gagne trailing right him.
The red light went on and the goal was announced, but the play was reviewed to make sure the goal wasn’t scored off Crosby’s glove.
Crosby stared at the video board like the rest of the 19,883 orange-clad fans, only he was the one smiling when it was announced the goal stood for a 1-0 lead.
That goal could almost have been enough the way Fleury snagged every flying puck and smothered each one near the goalmouth.
Fleury, who stopped 15 shots in the second period, made perhaps his finest save midway through the third when the Flyers were pounding the net with pucks.
Jeff Carter, the NHL’s second-leading goal scorer, fired a close shot that bounced off the post on Fleury’s glove side onto the goalmouth and was quickly pounced on by the goalie to snuff the rally.
The red light came on, but the refs instantly waved off the goal.
That would prove to be a clutch stop only minutes later when Daniel Carcillo scored his first goal for the Flyers with 8:16 left that sliced the lead to 2-1. At that point, the Flyers had outshot the Penguins 41-22.
The usual sold-out crowd erupted and roared for every check that sent a Penguins player into the boards the rest of the way.
It was another electric atmosphere that simply didn’t matter much for the Flyers once the final horn sounded. Now, the Penguins have to hope they can protect the home-ice advantage in Game 5 and keep the series from heading back to Philly.
Fleury made his first save of the game, then his second, jumping out to a much better start than in Game 3 when he allowed goals on the first two shots of the game.
He got some insurance in the second period Kennedy avoided the check, broke free in the middle, and backhanded the puck past Biron for a 2-0 lead.
Matt Cooke assisted on each of Pittsburgh’s first two goals.
It was still 2-0 in the third when the Penguins caught a pair of breaks on one play. Fleury accidentally tangled with Mike Richards and fell backward — just in time for Mike Knuble’s slapper from the circle to smack off him on the way down.
Richards was even whistled for 2 minutes for tripping, though neither team did anything on the power play. The Flyers were 0-for-8 and the Penguins went 0-for-5.
The Flyers pulled Biron, who had 22 saves, with 1 minute left and got nothing with the extra attacker. Talbot almost immediately fired an easy shot from in front of the Penguins bench all the way into the net.
All that was left was for the public address announcer to tell the fans to “keep the faith” as they headed toward the exits.
Notes: The Flyers haven’t rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win a playoff series since 2003. … Carcillo’s goal was his first for the Flyers. He was scoreless in 19 regular-season games after he was acquired from Phoenix at the trade deadline. Carcillo served a one-game suspension in Game 2 for his whack to Talbot’s head in the waning seconds of the opener.