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The Matchups

Game 2 was more of what we expected from this series: More bad blood, more players in the penalty box and much tighter checking in the offensive zone.

Unfortunately for the Philadelphia Flyers, it's also went the way many expected for the Chicago Blackhawks -- although not for a lack of effort (or scoring chances) in the third period.

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One of the most surprising trends from Game 1 that continued, however, was the fact that both team's first lines weren't a big factor.

In what's emerged as one of the key matchups in the series so far, Blackhawks defenders Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook continued to line up for every faceoff against the Flyers' first line of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne, a battle the Philadelphia forwards managed to play to a draw in a major improvement from Saturday's 6-5 loss.

That trio was pointless and a combined minus-7 in Game 1 but finished Monday night minus-3 and all three picked up a point on the Flyers' only goal. Even that modest production comes as a good sign for coach Peter Laviolette now that he'll have last change in the next two games and should be able to get his big guns away from Keith and Seabrook more often.

At the other end of the ice, Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger continued to shut down Chicago's first line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien, who have combined for a total of only one assist after two games.

With two of the league's top shutdown pairings doing their job, it's fallen to the depth forwards to produce -- and Chicago's winning that battle so far.

The Hero: Antti Niemi

With the game on the line and his team leading by only a goal, the Blackhawks netminder came up big again and again in the third period, making 15 saves -- most in the final 10 minutes -- as Chicago was heavily out-shot.

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It was a strong rebound performance for the rookie Finn, who had admitted he hadn't felt quite right in Game 1, where he allowed five goals.

"He played another great game for us, especially in the third period," teammate Ben Eager said.

The Goat: Claude Giroux

The Flyers youngster had plenty of company on both sides of the ice, but after two games, Giroux has yet to record a point and is minus-3 in more than 30 minutes of ice time. He was also beat up in the faceoff circle for the second game in a row, losing 64 per cent of draws after winning only 44 per cent in Game 1.

After scoring 47 points during the regular season, Giroux exploded during these playoffs with 17 in 17 games prior to this series and will need to make more of an impact if the Flyers are going to mount a comeback.

The Turning Point

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It came with 2 minutes, 51 seconds left in the second period.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette received a lot of attention coming into this series for leaning too heavily on his top four defencemen, but in Game 2, he began to use his third pairing of Oscars Bartulis (making his third career playoff appearance) and Lukas Krajicek far more often.

Late in the second period, the move backfired, as, with the game scoreless, Bartulis failed to clear the zone and Marian Hossa opened the game's scoring shortly thereafter. Hossa crashed the net and whacked a loose puck past a helpless Leighton while Krajicek -- with his fourth NHL team in the past five years in part due to his penchant for soft play -- looked on.

Eager's first playoff goal 28 seconds later to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead was the winner after the Flyers' intense third-period rally fell short.

Three stars

  1. Antti Niemi, Chicago
  2. Marian Hossa, Chicago
  3. Braydon Coburn, Philadelphia

Game 2: By The Numbers

33 - Number of shots by the Flyers, seven more than Chicago and 30 of which came in the final two periods. The Blackhawks were out-shot by their opponent only 12 times in 82 games during the regular season, the best mark in the NHL. Philadelphia tied for second with the Detroit Red Wings with 27.

74:48 - Time in minutes and seconds before the Blackhawks got their first power play of the series, late in the first period of Game 2 after Flyers centre Blair Betts went off for a cross-check. Philadelphia was the NHL's second-most penalized team this season but has been far more disciplined throughout the playoffs.

22,275 - Attendance at Game 2 on Monday night in Chicago. The Blackhawks have led the NHL in attendance the past two seasons after averaging only 12,727 fans a game three years ago.

They said it: Quotes of the night

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa on his goal that opened the scoring and ended his drought: "It's been a long time ... And when the bounce, the garbage goal I scored went in the net, I was looking for some ugly goal like that to get the offence going. ... So a relief, definitely."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville on Hossa's goal: "It was a big goal. Looked like it was the kind of game whoever scored first would have a big edge. Kind of different, just the opposite of the first game."

Flyers netminder Mike Leighton: "It was just tough giving up two goals that quick. We thought we played well in the first. Boom, they scored a good goal. And we gave up one right away. It kind of took the wind out of our sail a little bit. But we came out the third period and we played, I think, the third period the way we can."

Flyers captain Mike Richards on being down 0-2: "It's a position, unfortunately, that we're familiar with. And obviously not the way we want to go home, but in a situation where we can't get discouraged. We have to build off of how well we played at home lately. And get ready for Game 3."

Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith on how the Flyers' fore-check came on hard in the third period: "They're pretty good. Let's put it that way. Definitely got some guys with a lot of speed. Especially their forwards who can get in there quick and create some havoc. Anytime they get in there with some speed, it's tough."

Previewing Game 3

History is not with the Flyers after two games.

In the past 70 years, 34 teams have won the first two games of the finals at home, and 32 of those clubs have gone on to win the Stanley Cup.

Last year was one of the only two exceptions, however, as the Pittsburgh Penguins rallied to win four out of the last five games to beat the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 on the road. That's what Philadelphia has to pull off at this point -- and against a team that finished miles ahead of it during the regular season.

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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