By Ryan Waterman
🎵🎵 Whoa, we're halfway there! Whoa, livin' on a prayer! Take my hand, we'll make it, I swear. Whoa, livin' on a prayer. 🎵🎵
Philadelphia, it's time to get loud! Game six is headed back your way, with the chance to force an improbable game seven. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's recap how we got to this point.
The storm hit the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Friday Night, but a period later than expected. For the first 20:00 of Friday night's battle, the Orange and Black dominated the ice, entering the locker room with a 1-0 lead behind a late rocket from the Captain, Claude Giroux. The atmosphere given off by the Flyers in tonight's first period was that of a much different team than we've seen the past two games. They were physical, they applied pressure, they were crisp, and most importantly -- they played with the mentality of "one game at a time."
Things got quite dicey in the second period, as the Pens stormed back with authority, scoring a pair of goals to take a 2-1 lead. The momentum had shifted, but the Flyers didn't quit, they were just seemingly outplayed. That was, until Valtteri Filppula, of all people, netted the tying goal -- a short-handed goal, nonetheless. For the first time this series, the Flyers showed serious push-back in the face of adversity. This team felt like a much different team than game's past. They felt hungry, they appeared to want it more. It was a tale of two teams.
Entering the third period, this had the feel of a heavyweight fight. The deciding round was upcoming, and the scorecard sat at a 5-5 split, with a draw in the 11th round. Philly and Pittsburgh took the ice to duke it out in the final period, the Flyers looking to survive, the Pens looking to advance. It was a hard-hitting, nail-biting, nerve-wracking period that saw its' share of moments from both teams. It looked like we're were headed for an extra period, until our conquering-hero, the returning Sean Couturier blasted home the game-winner with about 75 seconds remaining. Matt Read put this contest on ice with an empty-netter to put the Fly-Guys up 4-2 for good, forcing this series back to the Wells Fargo Center.
The significance of this win cannot be understated, as this series seemingly sits in the Flyers' palm right now. All series, game one withstanding, they've been road warriors. They took two out of three in Pittsburgh, which is incredible. Now, they head back home, where thing's haven't exactly gone their way, getting outscored 10-1 in two games. The recipe for success, as pointed out on tonight's Flyers Postgame Live (on NBC Sports Philly) is to simply keep the crowd rowdy. In both home games, the second the Penguins scored the first-goal, the air just flew out of the Fargo. It's vital for the Flyers to score first on Sunday, if there's any hope of forcing game seven. Score first, apply the pressure, and let the chips fall where they may.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, though, they may be without a crucial piece come Sunday, as defenseman Ivan Provorov left tonight's game, late in the third period in pain. Should Provorov, undoubtedly the team's best defender this season, miss Sunday's contest, it would be a devastating blow to the Flyers chances. Shayne Gostisbehere will immediately fill-in as their top defender, but the team would seemingly lack that lock-down stalwart defender. One would imagine that little changes in the Flyers' projected lines for game six, although the question should Provorov sit will immediately become -- Travis Sanheim or Johnny Oduya? Does Dave Hakstol roll out the youth, size, and speed with a positive track record this series, or the seasoned, Cup-winning playoff vet?
Regardless, this win was monumental. The Flyers seem to be feeling comfortable after tonight's win, and with nothing to really lose, that could be a dangerous thing for the Penguins. They'll be back at it on Sunday, as the Flyers look to send this series back to their home away from home -- the PPG Paints Arena. No matter the outcome of Sunday's game, this has been a fun team to watch this season, despite the frustrations we all share. Let's hope the good times continue to roll!