Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA -- Penguins interim coach Dan Bylsma was smiling after his team ended its Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Philadelphia Flyers with a 5-3 win in Game 6 at the Wachovia Center on Saturday.
It wasn't just the afterglow of his first Stanley Cup Playoff series win as an NHL coach. It was because of who helped his team get there.
Ruslan Fedotenko, who scored the Penguins' first goal, put the puck in the net in a playoff game for the first time since he scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final.
Sergei Gonchar, who scored the series-clinching goal Saturday, scored for the first time in 23 playoff games, dating back to Game 2 of the Pens' first-round series against Ottawa last year.
"I read the (media) clippings and I see how the media reports how these guys haven't scored goals," Bylsma said. "I have to tell you, when Feds scored, when Gonch scored, it brought a smile to my face, a smirk because I had seen and read how these guys haven't scored."
They did score, and their performances are two of the biggest reasons the Penguins are moving on to the second round. They're the first team since the Dallas Stars in 2001 to win a playoff round the season after the losing in the Stanley Cup Final.
They accomplished that feat with contributions from players who were long overdue.
"It's been a while, but in the playoffs, as a defenseman, you're not always thinking about goals," Gonchar said. "You have to keep shooting the puck, keep putting it on the net and one day it's going to come. Fortunately, today was one of those days."
The goal was set up by Evgeni Malkin, the NHL's leading scorer in the regular season -- and Gonchar's tenant until recently. Malkin carried the puck into the Philadelphia zone and dropped it for Gonchar. Malkin drove to the net and took the Philadelphia defense with him, giving Gonchar a nice shooting lane.
"I had a chance to jump in, had a chance to see where the goalie is, and obviously Geno (Malkin) made a great pass," Gonchar said. "I had all the time in the world to set up my shot and I made a good shot."
The rocket from the top of the right circle 2:19 into the third period broke a 3-3 tie and propelled the Penguins into the conference semifinals.
As big as the series-clinching goal was, they wouldn't have gotten to that point without Fedotenko's effort early in the second.
With the Penguins trailing 3-0, Malkin came from behind to the net and tried to stuff the puck under Biron. The Philadelphia netminder stopped the attempt, but the puck was loose under him until Fedotenko -- who broke into the NHL with the Flyers in 2000-01 -- pushed it under him and across the goal line at 4:35 of the second period.
Fedotenko dropped his stick and raised his arms to celebrate his first playoff goal in five years. When he bent down to pick up his stick -- which was lying on Biron -- Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn knocked him to the ice. Fedotenko was sitting on the ice during the ensuing scrum -- wearing a big grin.
"Playoffs is about … giving different players a chance to get opportunities to put the cape on," Bylsma said. "Our team played the right way and gave different guys the chance to be the hero tonight."
It can't be the sublimely skilled duo of Sidney Crosby and Malkin leading the offense every night. While Crosby had a pair of goals and Malkin added a pair of assists, teams win and lose in the playoffs as a team, which means contributions from everyone and everywhere.
That includes Mark Eaton, another former Flyer, who made a surprising appearance in the offensive zone to score the Pens' second goal. Eaton, who also scored in Game 1, came into the Flyers' zone on a 2-on-1 and had the rebound of Tyler Kennedy's goal bounce into the air as he came down the slot. He batted the puck out of the air and into the net at 6:32 to make it 3-2.
Crosby scored about 10 minutes later when he knocked in a bouncing puck that hit Kimmo Timonen's stick and Martin Biron's glove and hung in the air.
The Penguins continued their drive through the end of the second and into the third, when Gonchar became the hero of the day.
It was a huge comeback for the Penguins, who dug their way out of an early 3-0 hole made in part by their own mistakes.
Mike Richards stole the puck from Maxime Talbot in the Pittsburgh end and drove to the net. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stopped his shot, but Mike Knuble pounced on the big rebound and scored his second of the series on a backhander.
Just 51 seconds later, Claude Giroux and his magic hands threw a perfect cross-ice pass to a late-arriving Joffrey Lupul, who fired a wrister from the right circle over Fleury's glove on the short side.
The Flyers made it 3-0 when Danny Briere worked a give-and-go with Simon Gagne 4:06 into the second period.
But that was when the Penguins' long-forgotten heroes emerged to save the day.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.