April 21, 2012 7:00 a.m. PITTSBURGH —
Steve Sullivan, Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy scored and the Pittsburgh Penguins fended off elimination with a 3-2 comeback victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves — including a series of big stops in the third period — to help Pittsburgh cut Philadelphia’s lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.
Game 6 is Sunday in Philadelphia.
Matt Carle and Scott Hartnell scored power-play goals in the first period for Philadelphia, but the Flyers failed to close out Pittsburgh for the second straight game.
Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 20 shots.
Following four wild games that featured a record 45 goals, the teams played something more closely resembling playoff hockey.
Staal, coming off a hat trick in Pittsburgh’s 10-3 victory in Game 4, likely extended the Penguins’ season when he beat Bryzgalov over the glove 6:15 into the second period to tie the game and give the team an energy boost in front of the largest crowd in the Consol Energy Center’s brief history.
Kennedy put Pittsburgh in front to stay just over 3 minutes later, ripping a shot past Bryzgalov.
And this time, a one-goal advantage in this wide-open series was enough.
Fleury, who came in with an unsightly 5.43 goals-against average and an .817 save percentage overcame four games of shaky play with 20 brilliant minutes in the third period.
He made seven saves alone during a Philadelphia power play early in the third period, one of a dozen he made in the period as the Penguins stayed alive on a night when stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were held without a point.
The Flyers insisted the whipping they received in Game 4 was an aberration. If they were rattled, it didn’t show, at least in the first period.
Carle scored his first goal of the postseason — thanks in part to a brilliant screen by Danny Briere right in front of Fleury — from the point with 2 seconds left on a power play to put the Flyers up 1-0 just over 8 minutes into the game.
Going ahead early has been a dubious honor in this series. The team that scored first has gone on to lose every time. And in typical fashion, it didn’t take the Penguins long to respond.
Sullivan saved a sloppy power play — including one sequence in which Crosby and Malkin slammed into each other — by tapping in a pass from Kris Letang to tie it.
The Penguins, however, failed to play with the composure that highlighted the final two periods of Game 4. Malkin and Craig Adams went to the box with penalties, and Hartnell scored on the ensuing 5 on 3.
On the brink of having a season with Stanley Cup hopes come to a stunningly quick end, however, the Penguins responded by ditching flashy play for more basic, responsible hockey over the final two periods. It was enough to send the series back to Philadelphia, where the pressure will be squarely on the Flyers, who will try to avoid becoming the fourth team in NHL history to lose a seven-game series after winning the first three games.
NOTES: The teams combined for 23 first-period goals, the most in NHL history for through the first five games of a playoff series. The record is 25 set by Chicago and Edmonton in 1985. ... The Flyers played without defenseman Nicklas Grossmann. He is dealing with a concussion and is out indefinitely. .... The Penguins played without D Paul Martin, who missed his second straight game because of an undisclosed injury. ... The Penguins had never won a Game 5 after going down 3-0 in a series.