A funny thing happened in one of the most high-scoring playoff series in NHL history on Wednesday night.
A goalie showed up.
Philadelphia Flyers, it wasn't one of theirs. And they need one of theirs, any one of theirs, to show up in Game 5.
Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleuryallowed three first-period power play goals, and then covered the net like a sheet of Plexiglas as the Penguins rallied for their first victory in the best-of-seven series in Game 4.
Now, Game 5 is this 7:30 p.m. Friday at the CONSOL Energy Center, and the Penguins are staging a white-out for their fans with a white T-shirt giveaway, the same way the Flyers hold their orange-outs with orange T-shirt giveaways.
This series, which the Flyers lead three games to one, is far from over as the Penguins proved on Wednesday with the first 10-goal game in the NHL playoffs since Los Angeles recorded 10 in 1990.
While Fleury started slow, he took on new energy following a gorgeous save on Claude Giroux about five minutes into the second period.
Where "Flower" found a way to stand tall, Flyers goalies Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky both found a way to melt into the ice. Each allowed five goals on 18 shots. Bryzgalov, who recorded four shutouts in March and down the stretch looked like the goalie the Flyers were hoping he would be when they acquired him last year, has had an implosion.
Following the game, Bryzgalov had a 4.95 goals against average for the playoffs and an .844 save percentage while Bobrovsky's first playoff appearance resulted in an even uglier 8.11 GAA and .722 save percentage.
Can you say Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher, both of whom were in the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night to witness the humiliating blowout?
Bryzgalov left the practice ice on Thursday morning after 10 minutes, and Leighton filled in the rest of the way. This goaltending wheel has the potential to doom the Flyers or give them new life, but it's a verifiable sign that confidence is an issue after just one loss.
At least the Flyers got one thing right after Game 4. They didn't talk about their dislike for the Penguins or the penalty calls against them, particularly the streak that gave the Pens five straight second-period power plays. Instead, they talked about being embarrassed, from Giroux, to Kimmo Timonen to Jaromir Jagr.
Now it's time to regroup. While three goals, which the Flyers got Wednesday can win most playoff games, they need to find a way to settle down on defense.
So far, the series has gone like this: Flyers trail by three goals in Game 1 and come back to win; Flyers trail by two goals in Game 2 and come back to win; Flyers trail by one goal in Game 3 and come back to win; Flyers lead by a goal in Game 4 and give up 10 goals in a loss.
Somewhere, somehow, the Flyers have to batten down the hatches on defense, and that may be considerably more difficult Friday night. Big Nicklas Grossmann suffered the ubiquitous "upper body" injury in the second period on a hit behind the net from Evgeni Malkin. Broadcast and published reports called it a suspected concussion, which could keep the blueliner out of Game 5.
An NHL sage once said that it's not a real series until each team wins a game, and what we have here is a series with the odds-on Stanley Cup favorites fighting to become just the fourth NHL team — and the first since the Flyers in 2010 — to battle back from a 3-0 series deficit for a win.
Adding more insult to injury — and maybe more injury, at that — is that Penguins 40-goal scorer Craig Adams and penalty killer James Neal will return from one-game suspensions following violent play in Game 3. The Flyers should have capitalized with those players missing from Game 4, but instead were crushed.
"We weren't too sharp [in Game 4]," Giroux said. "I think guys kind of forgot that they've got two of the best players in the world [Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin] on the other side. Maybe we thought it was going to be easy … in front of our fans. We had that lead and then they took over. We're not happy about it. It's got to be better in Pittsburgh … [We] started good, for once. Had the lead. Then we kind of stopped playing. I don't know, the whole game was kind of a blur. Everything happened so quick. We've just got to move on and be ready for Game 5. It's a little bump to the road. We've got to make sure, in Game 5, that we're ready to battle a little bit better."
Giving up 10 goals in a playoff game is more than a little bump, however, and having your anointed starting goalie walk out 10 minutes into the most important corrective practice of the postseason, is more than a little bump.
"I'm not worried about him," Giroux said of Bryzgalov on Wednesday night after the loss. "He's an elite goaltender. He'll be our best player in Game 5."
It's not so sure right now that he'll even be playing in Game 5. Having a big question mark in goal, as proven in Game 4, is not very comforting or confidence-building. The Flyers desperately need a goalie, one who can make a difference, in order to win the shootout that this series has become.