Philadelphia, PA – Claude Giroux knocked down Sidney Crosby in the opening seconds of the game and the Philadelphia Flyers finally knocked the Pittsburgh Penguins out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Penguins had won each of the last two games in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals to stave off elimination, but Giroux followed up his early hit with a goal and an assist in the first period to propel the Flyers to a 5-1 victory in Game 6 of the series at the Wells Fargo Center.
Giroux picked up another assist on Erik Gustafsson's first playoff goal to give Philadelphia a 3-0 lead in the second period and Danny Briere also scored moments after Pittsburgh had appeared to pick up momentum with a goal from Evgeni Malkin.
The Flyers, after winning the first three games of the series, avoided a trip back across the state to Pittsburgh for a potential Game 7 with their best defensive effort of the set. The Penguins had scored at least three goals in each of the first five games, but could only dent Ilya Bryzgalov once on 31 shots Sunday.
Philadelphia became the first Eastern Conference team to advance in the 2012 playoffs and won't learn its second-round opponent until later this week.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 18 shots for Pittsburgh, which was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for a second straight season. The Pens were ousted by Tampa Bay in seven games last spring.
It didn't take long for the Flyers to set the tone Sunday, thanks to Giroux, who finished with 14 points to set a team scoring record for one playoff series. After burying Crosby with a check just moments after the opening faceoff, he scored an unassisted goal a few seconds later.
Giroux intercepted a Pittsburgh clearing attempt at the blue line and snapped a quick shot from the top of the left circle past Fleury for his sixth goal of the series just 32 seconds into the game.
The Flyers killed off a Briere high-sticking penalty early in the first and cashed in their first power play with 6:59 left in the opening period to build a 2-0 edge. Giroux's one-timer from the left circle was stopped by Fleury, but the puck fell loose underneath the netminder and Scott Hartnell dove to poke it home.
Bryzgalov stopped all nine shots he faced in the first period and the Flyers added a third goal at the 5:25 mark of the second when Gustafsson sent a harmless wrist shot toward the net just after he crossed the blue line. The puck appeared to clip the stick of a Pittsburgh defender and changed direction slightly as it sailed past Fleury.
The Penguins tried to creep back into it on a power play just over three minutes later. Fleury stopped a shorthanded Philadelphia chance and Malkin went the other way, beating Bryzgalov with a shot from the right circle for his third goal of the series at 8:34.
It took the Flyers just 34 seconds to quell any Pittsburgh momentum, as Briere was credited with his fifth goal. He sent the puck toward the front of the net and it caromed off the knee of Penguins defender Zybnek Michalek before squirting through Fleury.
Pittsburgh killed off an early penalty in the third period, then had a chance to make a game of it at the 8:06 mark when Philadelphia's Braydon Coburn went off for hooking.
Bryzgalov turned aside a couple of Pittsburgh attempts during the power play and the Flyers also got the benefit of an official's call late in the third when it appeared that James Neal had scored with 3:02 remaining during a 6- on-4 skating advantage with Fleury pulled during a power play.
Neal's shot was stopped by Bryzgalov, who was then pushed into the net. The puck soon followed across the goal line and it was initially called a goal, but quickly overturned.
Brayden Schenn then sealed it with an empty-netter in the closing seconds.
Giroux's 14 points eclipsed the old Flyer mark of 12 set by Bill Barber in the 1980 semifinals against Minnesota and matched by Briere in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals...The Flyers set a team playoff record with 12 power-play goals in the series, surpassing the old mark of 11 accomplished against Pittsburgh in the 1989 division finals...The teams combined for 25 first-period goals in the series to tie an NHL record for one playoff series.