Originally created 05/02/00

Flyers are good at blame game



PITTSBURGH -- The Philadelphia Flyers are blaming just about everything.

The Penguins' clutching and grabbing. All the shots goalie Ron Tugnutt is stopping. Their inability to contain Pittsburgh's scorers.

Two games and two losses into an Eastern Conference semifinal the Flyers were expected to win, the fretting might be getting to them.

As the series shifts to Pittsburgh for Game 3 tonight, several Flyers offer this suggestion -- stop complaining, stop looking back and, maybe, stop focusing on what's going wrong and start trying to get it right.

Specifically, the Flyers might want to worry less about why they're not scoring and do a better job of stopping Pittsburgh's scorers. Most of all Jaromir Jagr, who has outscored the Flyers 3-1, even if it seems Tugnutt and his .961 save percentage are getting all the credit for the Penguins' unanticipated 2-0 lead.

Even if the Flyers were solving Tugnutt, they still haven't shut down Pittsburgh's scorers. Jagr has three goals, Robert Lang has two and Martin Straka has a goal and a bunch of assists.

"I don't think they're worrying about me right now," Jagr said Monday, following a hour-long practice. "I've been lucky. Some of the goals we've scored were lucky, especially coming off my stick."

Still, even if the Flyers start solving Tugnutt, they haven't proven they can win a shootout against the Penguins, who have outscored the Flyers and Washington 23-9 in seven playoff games.

"It doesn't matter what you do if you don't score," Flyers interim coach Craig Ramsay said.

To generate more offense, Ramsay has made two significant lineup changes. Center Daymond Langkow moved up to the first line between John LeClair and Mark Recchi, and the slumping Keith Primeau dropped to the second line with Simon Gagne and Rick Tocchet.

Ramsay also added veteran defenseman Adam Burt into the rotation and removed rookie Mark Eaton.

"I just wanted to give them something to think about, a different look," Ramsay said. "Langkow's played well, Primeau's played well, who knows what will happen once the game gets started."

The Flyers made the changes to try to get to Tugnutt, whose career record is an unremarkable 134-170-9, but clearly is at the top of his game.

The Penguins, never known as a defensive team, also are frustrating the bigger, more aggressive Flyers with their ability to clear out the net, thus preventing Tugnutt from facing a lot of rebounds from bad angles.

"He's in our head right now," Tocchet said.

Maybe it's not just the goaltender, Tugnutt said.

"I think the team in general has thrown them off," Tugnutt said. "The way we've played may not be the same team they faced and beat regularly during the season."

Ramsay argues these changes include flagrant holding, clutching, and hauling down players around the net.

"We don't coach interfering or holding," he said.

Imagine that -- the tough-guy Flyers complaining the Penguins, never known for their physicality, are manhandling them. Now that's an upset.

The Penguins' response? If that's what they're worried about, let them worry, and maybe it will get their minds off playing. Not that the Penguins aren't expecting a desperate, charged-up opponent in Mellon Arena, where the Flyers are 3-14-5 in their last 22 games.

"They'll play the same type of game, they'll play hard and physical," Penguins coach Herb Brooks said. "They do it very well.

"This is not over, and we know it."

Still, the Penguins are aware that if they can again get the early lead, as they did in winning 2-0 in Game 1 and 4-1 in Game 2, the Flyers might start doubting their ability to win the series.

"We don't want to give them any life," Tugnutt said. "We don't want to get behind the 8-ball. We can take a commanding lead, or we can let them get back into it."