The Philadelphia Flyers will try to complete a sweep of their Eastern Conference semifinals series, as they host the floundering Pittsburgh Penguins in tonight's Game 4 at Wells Fargo Center.
The fourth-seeded Penguins were tabbed as favorites to not only win this best- of-sevens series, but they were also trendy picks to win the Stanley Cup heading into this postseason. Instead, the 2009 Cup champions are down 3-0 and will try to become just the fourth team in NHL history to win a series after losing the first three games.
Of course, the last team to pull off the 3-0 comeback was the Philadelphia Flyers, who did it against Boston in the 2010 conference semifinals. However. Philadelphia has never even blown a 2-0 series lead in its history, posting a 17-0 record all-time when winning the first two games. The Flyers also haven't recorded a series sweep since ousting the New York Rangers in the 1995 conference semifinals.
The Penguins will also be missing a few pieces to their lineup tonight in the aftermath of Sunday's fight-filled Game 3 in Philadelphia. The Flyers won the contest 8-4 and when the dust cleared the clubs had combined for 158 penalty minutes.
On Monday, Craig Adams received an automatic one-game suspension for instigating a fight in the final five minutes. On Tuesday, fellow Penguins forwards Arron Asham and James Neal were also suspended with Asham getting four games for cross-checking Philadelphia's Brayden Schenn up high.
Neal, who had two separate hearings, was suspended for one incident -- that of charging Flyers forward Claude Giroux with 4:42 remaining in the contest. Earlier in the shift, Neal was unpenalized for taking a run at rookie forward Sean Couturier, leaving his feet to deliver a hit the 19-year-old from the blind side.
The suspension to Neal could affect Pittsburgh's ability to stave off elimination tonight. Neal was second to Evgeni Malkin on the Penguins this season in both goals (40) and points (81) and he is tied with Sidney Crosby for the team lead with five points in the playoffs.
Danny Briere, Maxime Talbot and rookie Matt Read had two goals apiece for the Flyers on Sunday. It marked Philadelphia's second straight game with eight goals after claiming Game 2 in Pittsburgh by an 8-5 margin. The Flyers have set a new franchise record for most goals scored in the first three games of a playoff series with 20.
"I thought the first two games in Pittsburgh were crazy, but this one was even wilder. Once again, coming up on top is a really good feeling," Briere said.
Claude Giroux, who fought Penguins Crosby in the first period, added a goal and an assist for the Flyers. Philadelphia's leading scorer during the regular season is pacing all NHLers with eight points (4 goals, 4 assists) in the playoffs.
"If there's a team that can come back from 3-0 this year I think it's them so we need to understand that," Giroux said after Game 3. "We need to make sure that we're focused for Wednesday. Our fans tonight were unbelievable. It was the best I've seen since I'm here and just the boost they gave us was pretty unbelievable."
Neal and Jordan Staal each posted two goals in Sunday's loss, while Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin had two assists apiece. Crosby added an assist.
"You gotta win one. It's plain and simple you can't win all four at once and you gotta win one and I think you know no one is showing any signs of giving up in here," said Crosby.
Neither starting goaltender played well in Game 3, but Philadelphia's Ilya Bryzgalov earned the win with 31 saves. Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled after giving up six goals on 28 shots and Brent Johnson made four saves in the third period. Fleury will get the start again tonight.
This series marks the sixth all-time playoff meeting between the Flyers and Penguins. Philadelphia won the first three matchups, but Pittsburgh has taken the last two postseason encounters. The last series was in the opening round of the 2009 playoffs and Pittsburgh claimed that set in six games en route to their most recent Stanley Cup title.
The Penguins haven't been swept in a best-of-seven series since losing to Boston in the 1979 Stanley Cup quarterfinals.