Maybe it wasn’t the best series ever played, but the 2012 first round matchup between the #4 seed Pittsburgh Penguins and the #5 seed Philadelphia Flyers was definitely one of the most exciting, and at times head-scratching series I have ever seen. At times the teams were playing like it was a pre-season game while at other times it was like overtime in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
The intensity between the clubs started in the regular season and carried over into this series.
Here is a game by game recap of the insanity.
GAME 1: Pittsburgh jumps out to a 3-0 first period lead only to lose 4-3 in overtime.
GAME 2: Pittsburgh jumps out to another lead but Philly scores the final four goals to defeat the Pens 8-5. Claude Giroux (3 goals, 3 assists) and Sean Couturier (3 goals) lead the way offensively.
GAME 3: A fight between stars Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux followed by an undercard of Kristen Letang and Kimmo Timonen showed Pittsburgh’s frustration at falling out of the series. The Flyers went up 3-0 with the 8-4 win, that also resulted in three Penguins getting suspended, most notably all star James Neal, who was banned one game for a hit on Couturier.
GAME 4: Without Neal, Pittsburgh rallied with a vengeance, outscoring the Flyers 10-3. Jordan Staal had a hat trick as the Pens scored 9 times in the first 40 minutes.
GAME 5: Marc Andre Fleury finally looked like a Stanley Cup Champion as he made 24 third period saves in the first game of the series that looked like traditional playoff hockey. The Pens officially got back into the series with a 3-2 win.
GAME 6: Fleury continued his roller coaster series that had more downs than ups with a substandard game 6, and the Penguins fell 5-1 to lose the series in 6 games.
Claude Giroux made a statement in this series as he stared across the ice at two NHL MVPs and he outplayed them both. His 14 points in the series almost matched the combined 16 points scored by Crosby and Malkin. It was also a true coming out party for 18 year old rookie Couturier, whose defensive play was beyond his years.
This series was at times sloppy, at times badly goaltender, but it was one of the most intense and exciting playoff series in recent memory. It also took its toll on the Flyers, who were spent and not much of a match for the New Jersey Devils in Round 2.