Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The End Game Giroux, Flyers Unexpectedly Shove Penguins out Playoff Door

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The End Game Giroux, Flyers Unexpectedly Shove Penguins out Playoff Door

Article excerpt

PHILADELPHIA -- The Penguins did not expect it to end this way.

Not this quickly.

Not this painfully.

But, when the playoff run they had hoped would last two months was aborted in less than two weeks, they didn't have a hard time figuring out why.

Just as it's easy to understand why only three teams in NHL history have been able to win a best-of-seven after losing the first three games, as the Penguins did in their opening-round series against Philadelphia.

So, while the series might have ended with their 5-1 loss in Game 6 Sunday at Wells Fargo Center, it effectively had been lost much earlier.

"They played really, really well, and we didn't play very well for three games," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "There are obviously a lot of regrets in the room, and stuff you can't take back.

"You can't change the outcome of the first three games. When you look back at a number of things you could have done better, that's a little harder to accept."

There's much about losing their third consecutive playoff series that the Penguins will have to try to accept -- and digest -- but plenty of time for them to do it, since they couldn't escape Round 1 for the second spring in a row.

A year ago, their seven-game loss to Tampa Bay received a pass of sorts because Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were injured. This defeat carries no such asterisk.

This year, the Penguins' lineup of choice -- the one they were convinced had championship potential -- was largely intact.

"Everybody, from the top down, believes this is the group that's going to let you win," left winger Chris Kunitz said. "That we can go out and compete and play with any team out there."

That wasn't evident, however, for much of the Flyers series. Game 6, the first loss in which the Penguins did not squander a lead, did nothing to change that assessment.

They simply fell behind early -- Claude Giroux beat goalie Marc- Andre Fleury with a short-side shot 32 seconds after the opening faceoff -- and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon.

Giroux's goal came after he had dropped Crosby with a hit in the neutral zone just seconds after the game began and was the first of his three points. …

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