Losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins on fourth-line forward Max Talbot's goal will be very difficult for the Flyers to deal with, especially in a series that is fast slipping away from them.
Talbot, a checking line forward on a team renowned for its stars, scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period and the Penguins took a two-game lead in the Eastern Conference finals by beating the Flyers 4-2 Sunday night.
Crosby and Marian Hossa also scored and Jordan Staal added an empty-net goal in the final minute as Pittsburgh came back to win after twice giving away leads.
Pittsburgh won the first two games at home for the third consecutive series, with Game 3 set for Tuesday night in Philadelphia. The Flyers won each of their first two playoff rounds after losing Game 1, but this is the first time they also lost Game 2 on the road.
"We've played in a Game 7 where if you lose, you go home," said goalie Martin Biron, who made 34 saves. "Game 3 isn't like that, but it's as close as it's going to get. I think we played pretty good, but we can play better. ... It's all about desperation and urgency."
The Penguins' game-winner came from a player who had missed the previous three games with a broken right foot.
"It's something special - I was happy as a kid just to be back out there," Talbot said. "It was extra special to get the game-winner."
Gary Roberts, who turns 42 later this month, carried the puck behind the net after the Flyers' Steve Downie turned it over the blue line, and defenseman Derian Hatcher went with Roberts. That left Talbot open in the slot, and Roberts put a backhander onto his stick for Talbot's second playoff goal, at 8:51 of the third.
"He yelled for it, and I knew there was two D-men on either side of the net, so I kind of figured he was wide open so I threw it in front," Roberts said.
Fitting that a player known as Mad Max scored the game winner in a peculiar game in which an apparent Pittsburgh goal didn't count and the Flyers scored short-handed and on the power play but couldn't score at even strength. And Crosby, one of the NHL's biggest stars, got only his third power-play goal in 5 1/2 months.
"It's frustrating," the Flyers' Mike Richards said. "They got a couple of bounces."
Still, Crosby said, "That has been the story for the playoffs so far, those guys have stepped up. And by `those guys,' I mean, the guys on the third and fourth line have come up with some huge goals. They create a lot of momentum for us."
Downie, scratched for Game 1, was inserted to give the Flyers more of a physical presence, but will be remembered for giving up the puck up on the decisive goal.
"Turnover, can't happen," coach John Stevens said. "That's a costly turnover there."
Philadelphia, desperately trying to avoid going down two games against a team with Pittsburgh's speed and talent, had tied it at 2 when Richards intercepted Evgeni Malkin's risky cross-ice pass on a power play, got loose on a breakaway and beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a wrist shot with 24 seconds remaining in the second period. Despite allowing the goal, Fleury played another strong game by making 30 saves.
When Richards scored, the Penguins were pressing for a two-goal lead after Hossa's power-play goal at 13:43 of the second made it 2-1. Hossa scored nine seconds into Hatcher's interference penalty on Malkin. Hatcher also was off, for crosschecking, on Richards' goal - Flyers' second short-handed goal in 14 playoff games and the first allowed by Pittsburgh in 11 games. Pittsburgh is 10-1 in the playoffs.
"I'd like to see some consistency (in the officiating)," Stevens said. "We've got a couple of stars on our team, too. Derian Hatcher's been around the league for a long time and he knows how to defend. I can't be mad at Hatch."
Crosby went six games without a goal before getting one in the Penguins' 4-2 victory in Game 1, then put them up 1-0 with a power play goal midway through the first period - only the second game in 41 games dating to Nov. 24 that he scored with a man advantage.
Crosby's shot from the right wing boards eluded goalie Martin Biron through a tight opening inside the near post for his fourth playoff goal. Crosby's only three power-play goals in the last 5 1/2 months are against the Flyers; he had two against them April 2 in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins thought they scored the second goal, too, as Sergei Gonchar's backhander from along the goal line with the teams skating 4-on-4 late in the first deflected off Biron's stick and Hatcher's helmet and appeared to land down on its side across the goal line before Biron pushed it back.
Crosby, whacking at the puck from the side of the net, immediately put his right arm up to celebrate. But no goal was signaled on the ice, a call that stood because the NHL said its TV replays did not definitively show the puck crossing the goal line
The Flyers, apparently catching a break, tied on Jeff Carter's power-play goal at 5:46 of second, his fifth goal but only his second on 10 games.
Philadelphia, already without top defenseman Kimmo Timonen (blood clot), played most of the game with five defensemen after Braydon Coburn was struck in the face by Hal Gill's shot less than two minutes into the game. Coburn, struck near the left eye, left the ice bleeding and did not return.
"He got a really bad gash in his forehead across his eye," Stevens said. "It's pretty swollen and we'll have to reevaluate him when we get home."
Notes: Pittsburgh is 8-0 in the playoffs when it scores first. ... Richards has three of Philadelphia's four goals in the series and seven overall. ... Pittsburgh is 7-0 at home in the playoffs and has won its last 15 there.
|Penguins win series 4 - 1|
|Away @ Home||Date||Time/Results|
|Fri May 9, 2008||PHI 2 @ PIT 4|
|Sun May 11, 2008||PHI 2 @ PIT 4|
|Tue May 13, 2008||PIT 4 @ PHI 1|
|Thu May 15, 2008||PIT 2 @ PHI 4|
|Sun May 18, 2008||PHI 0 @ PIT 6|