PHILADELPHIA (AP)"Chris Pronger has become a puck pickpocket.
Long one of the NHL’s foremost agitators, the Flyers defenseman has bucked hockey etiquette by swiping the game puck at the end of each of Chicago’s first two wins in the Stanley Cup final. Like a game ball awarded to the star of the football game, a championship game puck usually winds up somewhere in the winning team’s souvenir case.
Well, unless Pronger is involved.
Pronger riled up the Blackhawks at the end of Game 2 when he used his stick to whip a stray rally towel in Ben Eager’s face. Eager had skated over to yap at Pronger about his puck thievery.
While the Blackhawks brushed off talk Tuesday of tossed towels and pilfered pucks, the Flyers found it all in good fun.
“He seems to be disturbing a lot of people around him. And we’re a team that disturbs a lot of people,” Flyers center Danny Briere said. “I guess he fits right in.”
The Flyers need a reason to smile"and a souvenir puck earned, not swiped. Trailing 2-0 to Chicago entering Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final on Wednesday, the Flyers spent their off day working on strategy to somehow beat the Blackhawks.
“We did not talk about who is going to steal the puck in Game 3. None of that,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said.
The Flyers have Stanley Cup history working against them.
Only two team teams in 33 tries have ever won the first two games at home and lost the series. Only four teams in the Stanley Cup finals have rallied from a 2-0 series hole to win it all.
Two notes to remember.
The Penguins did it last year, beating Detroit on the road in Game 7 after trailing the series 3-2.
And, the Flyers already came back from a 3-0 series deficit in this postseason. They stunned the Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals and became the first NHL team in 35 years to pull off that type of comeback.
This is not the time for the Flyers to be discouraged.
“The situation we’ve put ourselves in demands desperation now,” Briere said.
Not even moving the series to Philadelphia and its notoriously hostile home crowd for Wednesday night’s Game 3 should intimidate the Blackhawks. They’re as at ease on the road as at home this postseason with a sparkling 7-1 away record.
But the Flyers have the same record at home during this run.
The Flyers have to be agitated they’ve shut down stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and have no wins for their effort.
At some point this postseason, it would have seemed preposterous the Blackhawks would have more wins in the Stanley Cup final than the duo have points combined.
Yet, that’s the reality for Chicago after winning the first two games at home.
Toews and Kane have been noticeably missing on the scoresheet. Not a point, not an assist.
Goalie Antti Niemi and a roll call list of scorers have put the Blackhawks ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers 2-0, but Toews and Kane have yet to play a major role in helping Chicago try to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961.
“It’s not always the top line that gets it done as far as goal scoring,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “By committee, by team, there’s a lot of different areas. Defense can even complement scoring as well.”
True, but having the pair take over a game or two in hostile Philadelphia can ease some of the offensive burden of others not used to being counted on to score. Kane scored 30 goals and had 88 points this season. Toews had 25 goals and 68 points in leading the Blackhawks’ revival from one-time doormat to the second-best record in the Western Conference.
Winning is all that matters to Kane and Toews. If it means they go scoreless in the finals and still get to hoist the Stanley Cup, they’ll make that trade any day.
The punchless pair were nowhere to be found on Tuesday, taking a day off from talking about their slump with the media.
Kane hasn’t scored in six straight games. Toews in four straight.
Yes, both players would like to start scoring. But their absence in the goal column hasn’t affected the Blackhawks in the win column. Chicago has won seven straight games in the playoffs and 10 of 11.
“They do so much more for us than put pucks in the net,” Chicago forward Patrick Sharp said. “It doesn’t concern us. We’ve said all playoffs long, we don’t care who scores the goals as long as we get the wins. We have four lines that can contribute offensively and that’s why we’re here.”