PHILADELPHIA -- If there is a bright side to the precarious situation the Philadelphia Flyers find themselves in right now, it comes from knowing that they are in a comfort zone despite heading into uncharted territory.
The Flyers are down two games to none for the first time in these playoffs and missing their top two defensemen, but as their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Pittsburgh Penguins switches to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Tuesday, there is a sense among the players that being in their own building could provide the spark that turns things around.
"Playing at home is big," insisted Flyers goaltender Martin Biron. "We've seen how teams in the playoffs can feed off their fans and can get their own matchups with the last change, all these little things, and being in your own barn, in your own environment makes a difference."
It certainly can't hurt a Philadelphia team that is clearly feeling the pain and quickly unraveling after scoring impressive upset wins in its first two rounds. The problems began when top defenseman Kimmo Timonen was unable to play in this series because of a blood clot, and then continued when the Flyers lost his partner Braydon Coburn after just two shifts on Sunday.
Even so the Flyers looked much better in the second game than in the opener when they were badly outplayed, and had a chance to win until rookie Steve Downie, inserted into the lineup to add some energy, turned over the puck in his own end midway through the third period. The miscue led directly to the winning goal by Maxime Talbot and put the Penguins in the driver's seat in this series.
"It was a costly mistake, but he'll learn from it and be a good player in this league," Flyers coach John Stevens said.
Eventually, but in the meantime, Philadelphia will have to quickly figure out how to counteract a Penguins team that has lost only once in 11 playoffs games so far and is playing with authority and confidence at both ends of the ice.
"This is a young team that matured really quickly through the course of the season and through the course of last year to this year," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "We've got to focus because we understand this is not an easy place to play but so far in the playoffs we're playing pretty solid."
And doing a good job taking advantage of the Flyers' self-inflicted wounds. The Penguins scored twice on six power-play chances they had in Game 2, they have picked up five of their eight goals in this series on giveaways by Philadelphia.
"Obviously there are certain things we have to change," said veteran defenseman Derian Hatcher, who was pressed into playing nearly 29 minutes in Game 2. "But the real important thing is that we feel we have another level and we'll hit it (Tuesday)."
If so, it will have to start with the forwards, in particular the Flyers top line of Daniel Briere, Vaclav Prospal and Scott Hartnell, which has been taken out of the equation so far by the Penguins. The trio combined for 14 goals and 16 assists in the first two series against Washington and Montreal, but did not register a point in the first two games and is a minus-7 while getting only 10 shots.
"They're doing a good job clogging up the neutral zone and forcing us to dump the puck," said Flyers captain Mike Richards, who has three of his team's four goals in the series. "When we get the puck back deep, we can create a lot on the cycle, but we haven't had enough time in their zone."
And now Philadelphia is running out of time. The Flyers will likely have rookie Ryan Parent replacing Coburn in Game 3, which is essentially a must-win situation against a team that believes it hasn't shown its best side yet in this series.
"We still can raise our level a bit more and be better," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said.