The Pittsburgh Penguins staved off elimination in dominating fashion last time out and they'll put their survival instincts to the test again tonight when they host the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 of a wild Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
The fourth-seeded Penguins dug themselves a 3-0 hole in this best-of-seven series after losing the first three games to the Flyers by a combined 20-12 margin. However, Pittsburgh roared back with its first win in Wednesday's Game 4 at Philadelphia, taking a 10-3 decision at the Wells Fargo Center.
With their lopsided win in Game 4, Pittsburgh became the first team to reach double digits in a postseason game since Los Angeles recorded a 12-4 win over Calgary in the spring of 1990. The Pens and Flyers also have combined for 45 goals in this best-of-seven set, breaking the NHL record for the highest- scoring playoff series through four games.
Jordan Staal registered his first career postseason hat trick, while Evgeni Malkin scored twice and assisted on another goal to lead Pittsburgh to its decisive Game 4 victory.
Sidney Crosby and Steve Sullivan both had a goal and two assists for Pittsburgh, which tied a franchise playoff record for goals in a game. Pittsburgh also beat the Flyers by a 10-7 score in Game 5 of the 1989 Patrick Division finals.
"We needed it from the big guys and they certainly were there," said Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 22 of Philadelphia's 25 shots to post the win. It was easily the best performance of the series for Pittsburgh's No. 1 netminder, who was pulled in Sunday's 8-4 loss at Philadelphia.
Pittsburgh won on Wednesday despite missing three players due to suspensions stemming from a fight-filled Game 3. Two of those players -- forwards James Neal and Craig Adams -- will be available for tonight after receiving one-game suspensions, while Arron Asham was banned for four games for cross-checking Philadelphia's Brayden Schenn in the throat.
The return of Neal, who had 40 goals during the regular season, is particularly significant for the Penguins.
"When we got up by four goals I was OK. It was a different nervousness in the press box watching. Not a feeling that you like to have," Neal said of being a spectator for Game 4.
Claude Giroux, Kimmo Timonen and Jakub Voracek each scored a power-play goal in the first loss of the series for the Flyers, who were bidding for their first sweep since ousting the New York Rangers in the 1995 conference semifinals.
"We weren't too sharp tonight. Maybe we thought it was going to be easy tonight in front of our fans," Giroux said.
Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky both surrendered five goals on 18 shots. Bryzgalov, the Flyers No. 1 netminder, will get the start again tonight despite posting a 4.96 goals-against average in four games during this series.
"It was a wild game. We didn't expect to lose like that and we wanted to finish the series tonight. They came out strong," Bryzgalov said.
The Penguins are trying 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.
"It doesn't get any easier from here," Crosby said. "We did a good job of hanging in there and we expect the same effort from ourselves and know that they are going to be hungry to finish things off, too."
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.
On the injury front, Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann could miss tonight's game after suffering an upper-body injury in Game 4. However, Philadelphia forward James van Riemsdyk could play this evening for the first time since breaking a bone in his left foot on March 1. Van Riemsdyk had 11 goals and 13 assists in just 43 games for the Flyers this season, but he had seven goals in 11 playoff contests last year.
For Pittsburgh, defenseman Paul Martin sat out Wednesday with an undisclosed injury and is questionable for tonight.