PHILADELPHIA — Ask a goaltender what’s a key quality to have in order to become successful and one of the first things they’ll tell you the need for a short memory. Bad games can linger and affect players and teams; but those good teams are able to use that “Men in Black” neuralyzer and erase that negativity from their minds and move forward.
Through three games of their first-round series, both the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins have been able to do just that, with the Penguins parking a bad Game 2 to win Sunday afternoon and take a 2-1 series lead.
“I don’t know what it is. We’re just good at moving on. We just take it one game at a time in the playoffs,” said Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz, who scored the team’s third power play goal of the game. “You can’t dwell on anything or be too happy. You’ve just got to move on and try to get the next one.”
After a 7-0 drubbing in Game 1, some had already written off the Flyers’ chances in the series, but they flipped the script to even things Friday night. But the one aspect of Philadelphia’s game that’s been a thread throughout the series is their inability to stay out of the penalty box. The Penguins made them pay on Sunday afternoon, capitalizing on three of seven opportunities.
“We played a pretty solid game. It was nice as a power play to get a couple, get some confidence there,” Schultz said.
Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol lamented his team’s penalty problems after the game, noting that shorthanded time means players are expending energy trying to prevent goals, rather than scoring them.
“We’ve just got to do a better job of taking care of our sticks in those situations,” Hakstol said.
For all of the Flyers’ penalty issues, their power play had four chances in the first two periods, but could not solve Penguins goaltender Matt Murray, who finished with 26 saves. Going back to the “park and forget it” mentality talk, Murray’s calm demeanor aided him in Game 3, especially in the first period when Philadelphia came out strong and ended up outshooting Pittsburgh 11-4.
“He’s such a battle-tested guy, he has a real quiet confidence about him. He knows he’s good,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. “If a game doesn’t go the way he wants it to go, he always responds the right way. He’s shown that ability. It’s such a great attribute to have as a young athlete, especially a goaltender… We got a couple big saves from Matt at key times which gave us a chance to get into the game.”
Murray’s had a knack of bouncing back strong after bad games, but the Penguins know that success doesn’t lie solely on their goaltender’s performance.
“I don’t want to expect it. I want us to play the right way in front of him and make sure we don’t give too many quality chances,” said Letang. “But when he comes up big like this in the first, it’s a big help for our team.”