Pens’ stars fall flat in early exit
PHILADELPHIA — The Penguins weren’t just eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs here on Sunday. Their stars were extinguished.
Those indelible surnames — Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Letang — weren’t good enough to handle the Flyers in Round 1. They weren’t even close.
The Flyers put away the Penguins in defiant fashion with a 5-1 victory, clinching the series in six games.
“Even before the series started,” said Jaromir Jagr, a Penguins’ star of the past, “I was confident we could go head to head against them.”
But even Jagr couldn’t have predicted how poorly many of the Penguins’ best players would perform.
Sidney Crosby was held without a point in the final two games. Of his eight points in the series, seven came in the first period. He has scored three goals in his past 14 postseason games.
Evgeni Malkin scored the Penguins’ only goal yesterday, but he endured the most frustrating series of his career, as turnovers and bad penalties overshadowed his sporadic offensive output.
“The potential was there,” Penguins right wing Pascal Dupuis said. “At the same time, you can have the best players in the game, but if you don’t execute, don’t battle, don’t work hard, you’re not going to win.”
The Penguins also aren’t going to win if their stars don’t perform like stars.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, coming off perhaps his finest regular season, was unable to duplicate his Game 5 magic in what will be remembered as his poorest postseason series. He allowed 26 goals in all, perhaps none more damaging than center Claude Giroux’s 32 seconds into the opening period yesterday.
Instead of feeding off the momentum of winning Games 4 and 5, the Penguins found themselves down before the opening shift was complete.
“We came in with so much momentum,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “We were playing good hockey. And right away … instead of being in control, we’re chasing it.”
The Penguins lost the series because of their inability to keep pucks — 30 over six games — out of their net.
But also consider the following:
• Giroux outscored Crosby, 14-8;
• Flyers teenage center sensation Sean Couturier largely shut down Malkin;
• Letang’s play was spotty throughout. He was a minus-2 yesterday;
• For all of Philadelphia goalie Ilya Bryzgalov’s inglorious moments, he permitted five fewer goals than Fleury.
Even Jordan Staal, magnificent for much of the series with six goals, lost track of Flyers winger Jakub Voracek, who scored the overtime game-winner in Game 1.
Crosby certainly didn’t expect the early postseason exit.
“That’s hockey sometimes,” he 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.”
But few, if any, were built to win like these Penguins.