The Philadelphia Flyers had proven their comeback power over and over to start the Stanley Cup playoffs. As such, Flyers fans like myself joked that if the Pittsburgh Penguins ever actually trailed early, then Philadelphia would be in trouble. But it is harder to joke about that after it actually came true in Game 4 on April 18.
For the first time, the Penguins trailed very early in the postseason and actually had to make an early comeback. So it makes sense that this was how they won their first game of the playoffs - and that their 10-3 win has revived hopes for the biggest comeback of them all.
It has become a well established fact that Pittsburgh can't handle an early lead over Philadelphia. But on the flipside, the Flyers cannot seem to handle being ahead early at all, since they rarely do it. Nevertheless, when the Flyers went up by 1-0 in the opening minutes and then got on the power play thanks to Evgeni Malkin, it appeared the end was mercifully near for the Penguins.
Over two hours later, Philadelphia begged for mercy after Pittsburgh made its own sudden rally. First Malkin emerged right from the penalty box to tie the game, which led to a 2-1 Penguins lead minutes later. Then when the Flyers retook the lead by 3-2 with two more power play goals, the Penguins made another comeback to take a 4-3 lead - and wouldn't need another rally again.
Just as the floodgates opened for Philadelphia after all its comebacks in this series, Pittsburgh stormed out even more convincingly after rallying. In this case, it happened with five straight goals against two Flyers goaltenders in the second period - and one more in the third to reach double digits.
This seems to officially confirm that the Flyers can only lose if they don't jump out ahead first. But this spells bad news for the Penguins as they return home, since they scored so quick in the first two games at Pittsburgh and then fell apart.
Technically, they should ask Marc-Andre Fleury to give up the opening goal or two in Game 5, if he still wasn't so fragile. That may be an overreaction, but the fact that the team with the opening goal is 0-4 in this series is unavoidable.
In a showdown defined by rallies and comebacks, it now seems to make sense that Pittsburgh could make the ultimate rally from a 3-0 deficit. After all, Philadelphia started it all by recovering from a 3-0 deficit in Game 1 - and now it is in the Flyers' heads that the Penguins have a chance for an even bigger 3-0 rally. Given how the series has gone, this 3-0 turned 3-1 hole might have become the best thing imaginable for Pittsburgh after all.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and a Flyers fan since the age of eight - who has become quite familiar with the Penguins in that time.
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