Flyers again climb out of tough spot

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Philadelphia Flyers stared at one tough spot after another on the way to the Stanley Cup finals, so they weren't about to blink when the Chicago Blackhawks took the first two games.

They were on familiar ground. Now, they're on even footing.

Philadelphia took two at home to forge a 2-2 tie as the series returns to the Chicago for Game 5 on Sunday.

After dropping the first two at the United Center, the Flyers beat the Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime and 5-3 in Game 4 on Friday. Now, they're hoping for better results in Chicago and to keep a recent trend going.

Starting with the fourth game, they're a combined 9-0 the rest of the way in each of the four playoff series.

"I think you see teams over and over again as you do in the playoffs," defenseman Chris Pronger said. "You start to figure out what works and what doesn't. You start to feel better with not only each series, but in games, we get better with each period — or so it seems. I don't really know what the reason for it is, but we've certainly done a good job and hopefully that will continue for us."

The Flyers dealt with a coaching change this season with Peter Laviolette taking over for John Stevens. They overcame key injuries, they rose from 14th place in the Eastern Conference, and they beat the New York Rangers in a shootout on the final day of the regular season just to make the playoffs.

And then? They made things even more interesting.

There was an historic comeback against Boston in the second round to keep this run going, when they dropped the first three games and fell behind 3-0 in Game 7 before pulling it out.

A five-game win over Montreal put the Flyers in the finals for the first time since 1997, and now, they're looking for their first championship since the Broad Street Bullies repeated in 1975.

Things didn't look good for the Flyers after they dropped the first two games in Chicago.

Only two of the previous 33 teams that lost the first two games on the road came back to win, although the Penguins did it last year against Detroit after falling behind 2-0 and 3-2 in the series.

"We've kind of put ourselves in tough situations all year," center Mike Richards said. "I remember early in the season, Chris and I talking about going through the adversity at an early point in the season will just make us better later on when we get to it. We went through a lot of it this year. We had a lot of ups and downs, and I think it really paid off when we got down 0-3 to Boston and plugged away and then 0-2 to Chicago here going home. When you go through things like that as a group and you come out on top like we did throughout the season — making the playoffs like we did, through the Boston series — I think it just sets up for having confidence in each other and not panicking and just being aware of what you can do as a group if you kind of stick to the system and stick to the plan."

The Flyers were more aggressive the past few games, and responded quickly when the Blackhawks scored, snuffing any momentum.

In Game 3, it was Ville Leino putting one in the net 20 seconds after Patrick Kane scored in the third period to tie it at 3, and the Flyers went on to win 4-3 in overtime on Claude Giroux's goal. In Game 4, Chicago's Patrick Sharp had just scored late in the first period when Giroux made it 3-1 just 51 seconds later with his 10th goal of the playoffs off a pass from Kimmo Timonen.

Mostly, it's been the Blackhawks reacting to the Flyers.

Chicago switched up lines in the third period on Friday, with Kane dropping down to join Kris Versteeg and Dave Bolland and Andrew Ladd settling in with Jonathan Toews and Dustin Byfuglien to give the Flyers' defense a different look.

The Blackhawks then finished strong, cutting a three-goal deficit to one before the Flyers scored an empty-netter to seal a 5-3 win, and coach Joel Quenneville indicated there may be some more line adjustments.

Those changes are being dictated by the Flyers' defense. And, in particular, Pronger.

"I'm just shocked he's not up there for Defenseman of the Year," winger Ian Laperriere said. "I saw him game in and game out, and the way he plays and the minutes he plays. It's amazing. It's not like he's a little guy out there who skates and doesn't touch anybody. He plays 30 minutes, and he runs everybody over — and everybody runs into his elbows, I should say. But he's amazing. He's one of a kind. And we're lucky to have him on our team."