Bruins put nail in Flyers’ playoff coffin with dramatic OT win
The season likely went full circle Saturday afternoon at TD Garden – for the Philadelphia Flyers.
The “Big Bad Bruins” took out the “Broad Street Bullies” way back on October 8, the first game of the season for both, 2-1. It’s been a narrow Flyer path to the playoffs since.
In their 69th game of the season, Saturday’s matchup back on Causeway Street had the Flyers in a must-win game against likely the only team they can overcome to make the final No. 8 spot for post-season play.
Talk about the proverbial 4-point game.
“There is no doubt this is probably their biggest game of the year,” Claude Julien said an hour before faceoff, “especially if they want to get back into the race here.”
For the Bruins, their race is like being in third place at the top of the stretch and just wanting to finish in the money. The Flyers more like sitting in the 6-hole on the outside and not being a closer.
It didn’t help Philly’s cause to be looking at five consecutive losses to their archrival. Or having played two more games than Boston with 68 points to Boston’s 72. Or sporting a 9-17-6 road record away from the City of Brotherly Love. Or knowing the Bruins had but one loss in seven previous matinee afternoon games. Or that the Bruins had 29 regulation/OT wins to the Flyers’ 25 – the first tiebreaker in playoff determination.
Enough, eh, to make any Philadelphia fan head for the Tums after breakfast?
Or seven minutes in when Zedeno Chara took that first hammer to that aforementioned nail when he kicked some mud in Flyer faces, wristing a seeing-eye 50-footer past Steve Mason for a 1-0 lead. It was Chara’s sixth of the season and only Boston’s 27th power play tally of the season; Dougie Hamilton and Patrice Bergeron picked up the assists.
Philadelphia was 9-23-6 in games when scored upon first; 5-19-3 when trailing after one period.
At 5-3-2 in their last 10 games and 2-0-1 in the past three, it was put up or you-know-what for Craig Berube’s boys.
Playing in his 51st start and 54th overall, Tuukka Rask stuck some serious career numbers across the faces on the Flyer pine. In 11 previous games versus Philadelphia, Rask owned an 8-1-1 record and a sparkling 1.81 GAA. He kept that stat intact with 10 saves and a first-period shutout.
Jakub Voracek, however, put a dent in Rask’s armor — and breathed life into a Flyers’ comeback — when he put a dart far side past Rask at 9:43 of the second frame with Matt Bartkowski in the penalty box. It was the Philly phenom’s 20th goal, 56th point of the season, and the Flyer’s 50th power-play goal – third best in the league. Ironically, opposing teams have now scored the last three consecutive times Bartkowski has taken a solo seat across from the Bruins bench.
The third period featured standout goaltending by Mason who was looking to get above .500 at 13-13-8 – entering the game. With several of the spectacular type, Mason was also looking to save the Flyers season.
Rask faced his own barrage of quality Flyer opportunities.
“These are great games to play in, and good players enjoy playing those kind of games,” Julien said earlier. “It not only excites the players but it excites the fans and everybody watching these games.”
A lazy icing call caused by Gregory Campbell brought the play back to the Bruins end with five minutes to play.
And a Flyer named Schultz – not Dave but Nick – sent a shot from the left point that Chris VandeVelde deflected past Rask for a season-saving goal – at the time.
Boston, however, would get one final opportunity on a penalty to Wayne Simmonds with two minutes remaining. Julien pulled Rask for a 6-on-4. The Bruins spent the entire time in the Flyers zone. And it paid off with 14 ticks left when Brad Marchand tipped a Hamilton shot past a Mason for his team-leading 20th of the season. Loui Eriksson also assisted.
Each team entered overtime for the 20th time this season; Boston at 7-3, Philly at 5-5.
Rask made the save of overtime, denying Voracek on a clean break-in with two minutes remaining. And Brad Marchand, the game’s No. 1 star, won it on a backhand past Mason a minute later at 3:52. Max Talbot got his first point as a Bruin with Ryan Spooner also assisting.
“You’re 15 seconds away from pulling it out,” a deeply dejected Mason said. “They found a way to win it and we found a way to lose it. Pretty disappointed we didn’t pull it out. We had an opportunity to come away with two points and we let it slide away.”
“I don’t know about crushing,” Berube added when asked about the depth of the loss. “I’m done with this game. We got a point; shoulda got two.”
The outcome marked the first time since 1971-72 that the Bruins swept a Flyers’ season series. Instead of last rites, Philadelphia got a (temporary) blessing.
So, down the playoff stretch they come.
With Claude Julien urging his charges on.
And the Flyers — under full whip – a stride away from playoff flatline.
“We lost to Vancouver, 2-1, and by far were the better team,” Julien said after. “Against Calgary the other night, we were the more dominant team. We should’ve come up with two points. Eventually you hope a little break will come your way and tonight it seemed like it did. Hopefully, it’s a sign of good things to come.”