What happened to Marc-Andre Fleury's game?
Where has the defense gone?
How is the NHL's most loaded team and odds-on Stanley Cup favorite facing the prospect of being swept in the postseason for the first time since 1979?
The Philadelphia Flyers dominated the Penguins 8-4 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead and will go for the sweep on Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center. What made the Flyers' win impressive what their response to every sliver of hope Pittsburgh believed they had after a raucous first period that saw three ejections, 72 penalty minutes handed out and six goals.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The opposite reaction today was Philadelphia's special teams. Three power play goals and a shorthanded tally were the answers to every one of Pittsburgh's attempts to claw back into the game.
Jordan Staal opens the scoring 3:52 into the game and Max Talbot pops a shorthanded marker less than three minutes later. 1-1. Danny Briere scores twice, including one with the man advantage within the following five minutes. 3-1 Flyers. James Neal cuts the Flyers' lead to 4-3 midway through the second period, but Matt Read then scores four minutes later on the power play. 5-3 Flyers. Jordan Staal scores 1:32 after that to make it 5-4, but then Wayne Simmonds powers his way through the Pittsburgh zone for Philadelphia's third goal up a man. 6-4 Flyers.
For as long as the score made it appear to be a close game, the play on the ice told a different story. The Penguins again tried to slow down Briere, Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr. They couldn't. They haven't. And unless Fleury channels the 2009 version of himself and the Pittsburgh defense finds a way to, you know, contain the Flyers' offense, and history is in the making, the Flyers will be moving on to the second round very easily.
Of course, the game will be remembered for a series of fights, cheap shots and other incidents. Such as:
Sidney Crosby fighting Claude Giroux, and Kris Letang fighting Kimmo Timonen; the latter two getting ejected.
This Arron Asham cross-check to Brayden Schenn's neck, followed by a sucker punch, followed by an ejection.
Craig Adams pulling the hair of Scott Hartnell during a third period fight.
And late in the game, a blindside hit by James Neal on Sean Couturier.
But away from the rough stuff, Philadelphia capitalized on every one of their opportunities. They didn't stray from their game. They didn't let a little turbulence disrupt their path to this point. They've dominated the series offensively and have pushed the Penguins to the point where only history will be able to save their season.
Will they have an answer for that?
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy
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