Evgeni Malkin entered the series at the consensus regular-season MVP. Sidney Crosby entered the series still leading the conversation for best player in the world.
In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal, after a quiet performance in their Game 1 victory, Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers made his statement: Six points, a new Flyers franchise playoff record, in the Flyers' emphatic 8-5 victory to take a 2-0 series lead.
The Flyers are rolling. The Penguins are in trouble.
Giroux had a hat trick, including an empty netter, and assisted on goals by Max Talbot, Jaromir Jagr (the game winner) and Sean Couturier, the Flyers rookie who also posted a hat trick. Giroux had a point on the Flyers' last three goals in the third period. He played 22:28 and finished with a plus-4.
It was a chaotic game, featuring maddeningly inconsistent goaltending by Marc-Andre Fleury and Ilya Bryzgalov.
Twice in the game, goals were answered in extremely short measure. In the second period, Claude Giroux scored a shorthanded goal — off a Sidney Crosby turnover — to tie the game at 3-3; six second later, Chris Kunitz converted on the power play to give the Penguins the lead again.
In the third period, Tyler Kennedy scored at 1:04 to give the Penguins a 5-4 lead; 17 seconds later, Couturier scored to tie it.
Then it was Jaromir Jagr, a Penguin for 11 years, scoring his first playoff goal in orange and black to give the Flyers a lead they would not relinquish, as Marc-Andre Fleury coughed up a rebound that Jagr buried. At 18:11 of the third, Couturier completed his hat trick.
For the Flyers, it's the best start to this Stanley Cup Playoff series imaginable: Up 2-0 going back to Philadelphia, showing zero intimidation or doubt that they can beat the Penguins.
For the Penguins, it's the worst start imaginable: Witnessing not only their defensive lapses carry over from the end of the regular season, but also Fleury's struggles. He was a liability in Game 2; that can't happen against the Flyers, or in a game where Bryzgalov gives up five goals.
The Flyers simply want it more: Outscoring the Penguins 7-1 in the third period and overtime in these two games. Along with that, they haven't allowed a point to Sidney Crosby outside of the first period.
Philadelphia is 17-0 after winning first two games of a playoff series.
The Penguins, picked by many to win the East in this tournament, is in dire need of a turnaround.
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