Early exit leaves Penguins humbled

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 23, 2012
The Pittsburgh Penguins never stopped believing they could beat the Philadelphia Flyers. Not when the Flyers won the first three games of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series. Not when the Flyers raced to a quick lead in Game 4. Not even in the waning moments of Game 6, when an unlikely comeback died in a surprisingly one-sided 5-1 loss. The Penguins began the playoffs eyeing a second Stanley Cup title in four years. The journey ended before it barely began. Again. A year ago, the Penguins had excuses when they fell to Tampa Bay in seven games in the opening round. Stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were out. Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson played the series of his life. Pittsburgh was worn down after grinding for months without their two superstars in the lineup. Not this time. Pittsburgh started the playoffs at full strength only to get outplayed and - even worse - outclassed by the Flyers. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was erratic, the special teams were abysmal and the resolve Pittsburgh showed while winning 51 games during the season missing for long stretches. ''We put ourselves in a pretty big hole,'' Crosby said. ''We pretty much had to play perfect hockey to get back in the series and did a pretty good job until today .... Just, when you put yourself three-zero, it's pretty tough to get back in.'' Pittsburgh never could. There's a reason only three teams in postseason history have climbed out of 3-0 deficits to win a series. It's tough to win four straight games during the regular season, much less against your arch rival in the playoffs. As the Flyers celebrated on Sunday afternoon, the Penguins filed slowly to the dressing room to ponder another spring that ended far too early. The NHL's highest scoring team pumped in plenty of goals against Philadelphia. Pittsburgh found the back of the net 26 times in six games. In most series, that's plenty. Not this one, where traditional playoff hockey sometimes took a backseat to the kind of offensive explosion normally reserved for the All-Star game. Philadelphia scored 12 power-play goals in the series, a franchise playoff record. No matter how many defensemen the Penguins dressed or how many adjustments coach Dan Bylsma made, the Flyers had an answer. ''It's not a good feeling and the guys are definitely going to remember this feeling,'' Pittsburgh center Jordan Staal said. ''Hopefully we can take something positive out of it and really do what we can next year.'' Staal's sentiments were a familiar refrain throughout the dressing room of a franchise that looked like a burgeoning dynasty not so long ago. Pittsburgh made consecutive Cup finals in 2008 and 2009, winning it all three years ago behind the spectacular play of Malkin and Fleury. Three straight springs have produced dismal results. Two years ago, the Penguins fell to unheralded Montreal in the conference semifinals. Last year, the Lightning stormed back from 3-1 down. This time the Penguins ever had the advantage after squandering an early three-goal lead in Game 1. Now the question becomes how much longer the core will remain intact. Crosby and Staal can become free agents after next season. Though it's a near certainty the Penguins will do what they can to keep Crosby, they may not be able to afford Staal, who had six goals and three assists against the Flyers and was easily Pittsburgh's best player in the series. Staal is hardly ready to look too far down the road. ''I love the guys in this room and I believe in every one of the guys in the room,'' he said. ''I think we have the character in this room to not give up. We didn't give up in the series and it was too bad we still came up short.'' Something that wasn't supposed to happen for one of the NHL's marquee franchises. Any major offseason moves will likely focus on shoring up a defense that floundered late in the year and was totally exposed by the Flyers. Either way, the Penguins will have to wait 12 long months to get another shot and spend the next six weeks watching the chase to this year's Cup carry on without them. ''That's hockey sometimes,'' Crosby said. ''You don't always get to achieve the stuff you want to and there's a lot of other teams that want the same thing. It's not a good feeling, but that being said, we've got to find some way to learn from this and be better for it.''
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Family of deceased Kyle Field construction worker awarded $53 million by jury

Chris Bosh to miss All-Star Game with calf injury, Al Horford to replace

NBA commissioner Adam Silver supports bringing sports betting in to the light

Mets pitcher Jenrry Mejia becomes first player ever banned by MLB for PEDs

Eight bold predictions for NBA All-Star Weekend

Iowa athletics department under federal civil rights investigation

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

2016 Naismith Hall of Fame finalists announced

Hasselbeck ‘strongly leaning towards playing’ in 18th season

Pitchers to wear new protective headwear in spring training

Klay Thompson: Warriors will shoot for all-time wins record

Bryce Harper 'squashed' beef with Jonathan Papelbon

WWE has record revenue despite perceived troubles

Cardiff City owner tells team to shoot more, because ugly men can marry beautiful women

Report: American Pharoah will make $35 million as stud in 2016

City hosts Tottenham in Valentine’s Day clash

Ranking the ten best free agent pitcher signings

Is there a place for Aaron Hill with the Brewers?

The market for forwards may shape the NHL trade deadline

Who had the best NBA All-Star Game of the last 40 years?

The winners and losers of the 2016 MLB offseason

The most intriguing NBA story lines for the rest of the season

Report: Timberwolves ‘lament’ Andrew Wiggins missing weight-lifting sessions

Kevin Durant to the Warriors makes little sense

City of Atlanta, Braves fighting over iconic Hank Aaron statue

Brock Osweiler hopes to remain part of ‘very special’ Broncos

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Ranking the ten best free agent pitcher signings

Who had the best NBA All-Star Game of the last 40 years?

The winners and losers of the 2016 MLB offseason

On Kobe Bryant and taking greatness for granted

Bucks need to choose between wins, development

Fantasy booking WrestleMania 32

Unrestricted free agents each team must consider re-signing

QUIZ: Name the winners of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Thank you Daniel Bryan

The timeless greatness of Jaromir Jagr

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker