PITTBURGH -- It's not the first time we've seen the movie that played out in Pittsburgh on Friday night.
The Penguins jump out to an early two-goal lead, and then watch as the Flyers storm back and take the game. Lather, rinse, repeat. It's happened in each of the Flyers' past four wins against Pittsburgh, three of which have come at the Consol Energy Center.
With their 8-5 win on Friday, which was highlighted by hat tricks from Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux, the Flyers now have a commanding 2-0 lead in the series as it heads back to what will surely be a madhouse in Philadelphia on Sunday.
The series has also been a bit of a coming out party for the 19-year-old Couturier, and that was probably going to be true on Friday even before he recorded his first career playoff hat trick.
All season coach Peter Laviolette has trusted Couturier to play in tough situations. Not only giving him the opportunity to go up against top competition, but also asking him to start a higher percentage of his shifts in the defensive zone than any other player on the Flyers roster. That is a tough role for any player. It has to be unheard of for a rookie. Especially a rookie on a playoff team, and one that has the look of a Stanley Cup contender.
Through the first two games of this series Couturier has been matched up almost exclusively against Evgeni Malkin, the NHL's leading scorer this season and the player that is expected to win the Hart Trophy as the league MVP. And Couturier has not only outscored Malkin, he's been able to completely shut him down. The only points Malkin has been able to record so far were two assists on Friday. Both of those came on the rare shift that Couturier wasn't on the ice against him.
"It's not an easy task," said Couturier of being matched up against Malkin. "Obviously he's one of the best players in the world. He's big and strong on the puck and you just have to keep the puck away from him and not give him much time and space."
That's easier said than done, but Couturier and his linemates haven't had much of an issue making it happen.
The Flyers were able to get Couturier in the June draft with the first-round pick they acquired from Columbus in the trade that sent Jeff Carter to the Blue Jackets. It was the first domino to fall in general manager Paul Holmgren's retooling of the roster, and it couldn't have played out much better for the Flyers to this point. The other piece Philadelphia received in that trade was Jakub Voracek, the player that scored the game-winning goal in overtime in Game 1 on Wednesday.
But Couturier is simply becoming a workhorse. And he also scored some huge goals in Game 2.
The Penguins gave up enough back-breaking goals to last a team an entire season on Friday, and almost all of them came off the stick of Couturier. His first goal game with less than three seconds to play in the second period to tie the game at four. He scored his second on a breakaway just 17 seconds after Tyler Kennedy had given the Penguins a 5-4 lead early in the third period. He completed his hat trick with less than two-minutes to play to give the Flyers a two-goal lead.
Jaromir Jagr scored what proved to be the game-winning goal on Friday, and it's one that has been easy to overlook given everything that unfolded during one of the most exciting games we might see this entire postseason.
He was asked about the performance of Couturier after the game and was just as impressed as everybody else.
"Don't forget he has to play against probably the best player in the league," said Jagr. "If he didn't score any goals I would say he had a great game. He also played great defense and also scored three goals. I don't know if I know any words to describe his game. Awesome? Maybe something better than that."
There's really no other way to describe what he did on Friday.
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