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By Allan Muir, SI.com

Derian Hatcher There was certainly a moral victory to be claimed from the play of Philadelphia's battered blueline in Game 2. Problem is, no one's counting moral victories this time of year. And they're certainly not going to help the Flyers get the four wins they need over heavily favored Pittsburgh to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Trailing two games to none after Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Penguins, they now have just five chances left to get those four wins. And while they head back to the friendly confines of the Wachovia Center for Games 3 and 4, the hole already might be too deep.

Plenty of teams have come back from a two-game deficit before, but few have turned the trick absent the services of such key personnel. Already down a man after No. 1 defender Kimmo Timonen was sidelined by a blood clot in his foot prior to Game 1, the Flyers lost their No. 2 after Braydon Coburn took a deflected puck in the face in the opening minutes of Sunday night's contest.

Their absence left 49 minutes to be accounted for, forcing big minutes on five players better suited for more limited roles. Derian Hatcher, playing on one leg, logged nearly 29 minutes of ice-about twice the amount of work he should have to remain effective. Randy Jones soaked up 26 minutes, nearly seven minutes more than his average. Jason Smith -- chipping in with maybe his best performance of the postseason -- took on 21 minutes.

It was a valiant effort. In the first period, the Pens didn't get off a single shot five-on-five. At the end of the second, the game was tied at two and both Pittsburgh goals had come on the power play. The Flyers maintained their level of physical play, with Hatcher and Smith combining for 11 hits. They played conservatively with the puck, and they managed to keep Evgeni Malkin, so lethal in Game 1, completely bottled up. But as the contest wore on and the minutes added up, it was just a matter of time before the Philly defense buckled under the strain.

Amazingly, the Pens didn't take full advantage of their opportunity, waiting until the third before finally getting pucks behind the Philly defense with regularity. By that time though the slower-footed Flyers struggled to chase it down, and the Pens met them in the corners, hammering away and exacting a toll that soon would pay off.

No surprise that the winning goal came on what looked like a tired play. Flyers coach John Stevens promised his team would limit the turnovers that killed them in Game 1's 4-2 loss to the Penguins and they did, charting just six on the night. But the sixth was the killer, as first Steve Downie, and then Hatcher, failed to execute what should have been an easy clear just six feet from the blueline. Then, as the puck was dumped behind the Flyer net, neither Hatcher nor Modry picked up Gary Roberts behind the net, or Maxime Talbot, who sailed up the middle untouched to take Roberts' pass before slamming home the deciding goal.

As frustrated as he was after the loss, Stevens really couldn't have asked for much more out of his defensive group. But if Coburn's unavailable for Tuesday night's contest -- and there was no immediate word after the game -- it's going to take more than a gritty effort to wrest control of this series from a confident Penguins team that's now 10-1 in the postseason.

It's going to take a miracle.

Allan Muir is the senior editor of Beckett Hockey magazine and serves as the NHL's official scorer for Dallas Stars home games.

 

 

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