By Brian Cazeneuve, SI.com
This was the type of game that called for a hero from the third or fourth line. It was a game of bumps, bruises, turnovers, bad penalties and unsubtle hockey to the max -- or in this case, the Maxime. The Penguins took a 2-0 series lead against the Flyers on Sunday night with an inartistic, at times sloppy, but very opportunistic, 4-2 victory against the Flyers. The series lead is deserved, but the team with Crosby and Malkin didn't expect to get a key goal from forward Maxime Talbot, a guy whom they would have expected to see on the seat of the trainers' room or on the end of the bench with the game on the line. Instead, Talbot, who missed the last three games with a broken foot, scored the game-winner with 10:09 to play in the third period.
With the score tied 2-2 midway through the final period, Talbot and his rugged linemates, Gary Roberts and Georges Laraque, were pursuing the puck at the Flyers' blue line, with Laraque and Roberts trying to work the puck free along the boards. "I knew someone was behind me, because I could hear the stick calling for it," Laraque explained later. "I was hoping it was Gary, but I just didn't want to make a turnover at the line." Fortunately for Laraque, Roberts was indeed trailing behind him. The veteran forward won the puck along the boards from Steve Downie and then Laraque sent it towards the goal. Flyers defenseman Derian Hatcher was late picking up Talbot, who shot into the slot between Hatcher and Jaroslav Modry. He then took the pass from Roberts who corralled the puck before the Flyers defense could snare it and beat stunned Flyers goalie Marty Biron, who had played well, making 34 saves on the night.
"I can't really feel anything," Talbot said afterwards. "It's just such a rush. I didn't know if I was gonna play and I was just glad to get back in the lineup. This was the perfect scenario. It was more than I could have hoped for." When a reporter joked that he might go on a hot streak, Talbot modestly responded, "Yeah, I'm good for at least another one by Christmas time.
"That's our game. We have to get the blue line. Sometimes we're just out there to change the momentum a little bit. A goal for us is gravy. We know we're capable, but we can do our jobs in other ways."
That's what Pens' coach Michel Therrien was thinking when he gave the grinding line the key shift. "As a coach, sometimes, you've just gotta show some trust in those guys sometimes," said Therrien after the game. "You know they play well defensively and they're not gonna make a mistake to cost your team. For me it's about rewarding hard work and showing trust in their game. I love it when hard work gets rewarded."
From the opening faceoff, the Pens wanted a faster start than the one they had in Game 1, when the Flyers owned most of the territorial play early in the game. Laraque challenged Hatcher to a heavyweight fight in one of the game's opening shifts, but Hatcher never dropped the gloves. "Hatcher went after [Evgeni] Malkin last game," Laraque said later, as he defended the unwritten code. "Hatch is, what, 6-5, 230 pounds?" If you go after a guy like that, you have to face the music."
Minutes later, spunky Penguin forward Tyler Kennedy challenged Philadelphia's Scotty Upshall to a less-than-heavyweight fight and the forwards scrapped less than four minutes into the game. "It was a mutual agreement," Kennedy said. "I looked at him. He looked at me. I wanted to do something for my team. He wanted to do the same thing for his team."
Early in the game, the Flyers' defense corps, already missing its top player, Kimmo Timonen, because of a blood clot, took another rough hit when Hal Gill's shot from the point caught Philadelphia defenseman Braydon Coburn near the eye. Coburn never returned, leaving the other to mix and match pairings all night.
Midway through the first period, Sidney Crosby notched his first goal in six games with a screen shot from the right circle on what was essentially a 5-on-3 advantage, since Mike Knuble was in the box for cross-checking and Jeff Carter's tripping penalty had ended just four seconds earlier, allowing Carter little time to get back into the play.
After officials disallowed a Penguins goal that appeared to cross the line, but was ruled inconclusive, the teams traded power-play goals in the second period with Carter evening the score and Marian Hossa giving the Penguins the lead again when he caught Flyers defenseman Lasse Kukkonen in a moment of hesitation and swatted a bouncing puck at Kukkonen's feet behind Biron at 13:43.
With the period winding down and Pittsburgh on the power play, Malkin, who was as quiet in game two as he was brilliant in game one, telegraphed a lazy cross-ice that Mike Richards intercepted. Richards, who had another solid game, then beat Marc-Andre Fleury on a breakaway to tie the score and give the Flyers a fighting chance to steal a game for the second straight outing.
Biron kept the Flyers in it with a spectacular lunging glove save on Crosby from the left circle with four minutes to play, before Jordan Staal iced it with an empty-netter in the final 30 seconds.
Now the Flyers go home, aware that they have been beaten by the superior skill of Malkin in one game and the grit of Pittsburgh role players in another game. With a battered defense and little noise from the No. 1 (Briere) line, they will need the home cooking.