|05.14.10 at 11:29 pm ET|
From the moment he took the ice in Game 4, Simon Gagne was the unquestionable difference in the series. The Flyers got their best sniper back in the lineup and it paid immediate dividends when he scored the biggest goal of the series, the overtime game-winner in Game 4 that gave the Flyers a flicker of hope.
By the time he scored the go-ahead power play goal on Friday night in Game 7, the Bruins’ Stanley Cup dreams were completely up in smoke.
Gagne came back from an injured toe and collect four goals and an assist in four games, the final four of the series as the Flyers made history.
Gagne, the hero of Game 7 and of the series for the Flyers, said after Philadelphia’s 4-3 win in Game 7 that nerves may have played a role in the too many men on the ice penalty that led to the series-deciding goal.
“We expected them to come very hard and they did,” Gagne said of Boston’s 3-0 lead in the opening 15 minutes of the game. “Our mistake was maybe taking bad penalties early on, two goals on the power play. It’s not the start you want. After that third goal, we had a timeout and said, ‘Let’s just play one goal at a time and focus on scoring the first goal.’
“After that we were sure they would start questioning themselves a little bit and then we went for the second one and then were able to tie the game. I’m sure at that point they started to get nervous on their side and you know what, sometimes you’re nervous and you make mistakes and then they had too many men on the ice and that might be our chance to win the game and we did,” Gagne said.
The Flyers open the Eastern Conference finals Sunday in Philadelphia against the Canadiens.
|05.14.10 at 9:33 pm ET|
Summary — The Flyers became just the third team in the history of the National Hockey League to come back from a 3-0 series deficit and win a seven-game series, in the process coming back from a 3-0 first-period hole to score four straight goals to advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a 4-3 win over the Bruins at TD Garden on Friday night.
Tuukka Rask was the loser for Boston, allowing the four Flyers goals on 27 shots. Michael Leighton overcame a shaky first period to put the clamps down on the Bruins season with 25 saves. Simon Gagne scored the game-winner at 12:52 in the third period on the power play after the B’s were whistled for too many men on the ice.
The Bruins struck first (and, for that matter, second and third), jumping to an early lead eight seconds into a power play after Scott Hartnell went to the box for a high sticking call on Matt Hunwick in the neutral zone at 5:18 in the first period. Boston wasted no time, controlling the puck on the face off and getting a couple attempts on Leighton. The second — of the stick of Zdeno Chara — rebounded down to the right dot, where Michael Ryder sent it right back on the crease past a hopping Mark Recchi and the Bruins were off and running at 5:27.
Boston made it 2-0, again on the power play, at 9:02 when a broken rush through the neutral zone ended up in a reset by Dennis Wideman, who decided to take it all the way down the right wing into the corner and send it back towards the crease where Milan Lucic timed his crash perfectly to bang it past Leighton for the two-goal advantage before the first period was halfway over.
Leighton would let in a third straight Boston goal at at 14:10 as Lucic struck again when he turned a giveaway into a lamplighter when he rushed all the way down the right wing and let off a snap shot by the right faceoff dot that went five-hole and made TD Garden erupt.
But the Flyers, remarkably, refused to concede defeat. James Van Riemsdyk fought hard to the right of Rask, leveling Wideman and getting a broken-play dribbler under the net minder’s left pad for a soft goal that made it 3-1 at 17:12 in the first. It was Van Riemsdyk’s first career playoff goal in his second professional season (first in the NHL) coming out of the University of New Hampshire.
The Flyers made it a one-goal game early in the second period on an even strength play where Danny Briere was able to penetrate the Rask’s crease after Ville Leino put the puck deep. Briere did a spin-o-rama and put the puck across the crease, where Andrew Ference could not put a stick on it at the goal line and Scott Hartnell flipped it back over Rask at 2:49.
The comeback was complete when Briere struck on his own, this time with the assist from Hartnell at 8:39 of the second period. Briere came back down around the net and did a wrap-around on Rask that rattled through the net and back out the other side to tie the game at three. The play was reviewed but it was conclusive that Briere had put the puck in the net and Boston had relinquished another 3-0 lead in the series.
Simon Gagne — His Game 4 return from a broken toe made all the difference for the Flyers in this series as he scored his second game-winner of the series to complete the series comeback.
Danny Briere — Perpetual thorn in the Bruins side was instrumental in getting the Flyers back in the game as his goal and assist in the second period were the answer Philadelphia was looking for after it went down 3-0 in the first.
Milan Lucic — Two first period goals got TD Garden pumping as the Boston forward set the stage for the excitement that was to come.
Turning Point – When Briere and Hartnell teamed up to take over in the second period. The pair was able to bring the Flyers back from the brink as the Bruins went soft in front of Rask. The wily center and his large wingman were able to get deep into the crease twice to tie the game and give the Flyers a chance to win it in the third period.
Key Play — The Bruins took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty at 11:10 of the third period, which set the Flyers up to score the go-ahead goal by Gagne when he found the puck on the right dot in front of Rask for the wrist shot top shelf to bury Boston and its Stanley Cup dreams once and for all.
|05.14.10 at 8:56 pm ET|
The Flyers came out and skated like a desperate team, not one that was down and out.
Despite trailing the Bruins, 3-1, the Flyers, led by Daniel Briere and Mike Richards, applied pressure immediately on Tuukka Rask.
Scott Hartnell scored just 2:49 into the period and the blood pressure of fans began to rise in dread. It was made worse when Danny Briere went behind Rask and his backhanded wraparound beat the Bruins goalie at 8;49 to tie the game and stun the crowd.
It was also the first of two video reviews involving Rask. While the Briere goal stood, another review six minutes later would show Dennis Wideman saving the puck by gloving it and keeping it just inches from going over the goal line.
The Flyers had the clear momentum and had a paid of power play chances to take the lead but the Bruins came up with a couple of key kills to keep the game knotted.
The Flyers not only won the scoring battle in the second, 2-0, they outshot them, 11-6.
The Flyers also finish the series with a 10-3 cumulative scoring advantage in the second period.
|05.14.10 at 7:54 pm ET|
Those wondering whether Milan Lucic’s goal in the final 60 seconds of Game 6 would carry over to Game 7 didn’t have to wait too long for their answer.
Lucic had two goals in the opening 20 minutes of Game 7 as the Bruins took a 3-1 lead in what appears to be turning into a no-holds barred affair.
The Bruins put on a heavy forecheck, forced the Flyers into two high sticking penalties and took advantage of the great energy in TD Garden to gain early momentum and – more importantly – the lead.
Michael Ryder put the Bruins up on top when he took control of the puck in the lower right circle and turned and fired a shot that beat Michael Leighton five-hole for a 1-0 lead at 5:27
Johnny Boychuk skated deep with the puck and just before crossing the end line to the right of Leighton, fed a beautiful pass to Milan Lucic, who stuffed it past Leighton inside the left post.
The goal at 9:02 was fourth of the playoffs for Lucic and the second power play tally in as many chances for the Bruins.
But Lucic was hardly done. Just over five minutes later, he took off with Miroslav Satan from the Bruins blue line as the Flyers lost possession of the puck and skated right for the shell-shocked Leighton. His shot beat the Flyers goalie low for his fifth of the postseason and it was 3-0.
And it could’ve been worse for the Flyers, who called their timeout after the third goal. One shot hit the right post and another hit the crossbar as the Bruins spent most of the period deep in the Flyers zone.
James Van Riemsdyk gave the Flyers a pulse at 17:12, the first career playoff goal for the UNH product.
The Bruins outshot the Flyers, 14-8, in the opening 20 minutes.
|05.14.10 at 1:41 pm ET|
So the Philadelphia Flyers enter tonight’s Game 7 trying to become the first team since the 1975 New York Islanders to win a Stanley Cup series after trailing, 3-0. They did so in the Stanley Cup quarterfinals against Pittsburgh.
What many may not recall is they were incredibly on the verge of doing it in back-to-back series when they played the defending Stanley Cup champion Flyers in the next round.
The Flyers led, 3-0, only to have the Islanders – featuring a young goalie named Billy Smith and a defenseman by the name of Dennis Potvin – battle back to tie the series and send it to Game 7 in Philly. Kate Smith and Bernie Parent saved the Flyers in that contest and the Flyers went on to win the Stanley Cup over Buffalo in six games.
The second part is the kind of history the Bruins are hoping to repeat tonight.
Still, it seems no one knows what to expect in terms of an outcome, only that it will be a battle.
“I would certainly think that way,” Laviolette said. “You got two teams that are pushed to the edge now. Boston’s going to show up and play hard, and we have to do the same thing. It’s going to be a great hockey game.”
What Laviolette mentioned several times following his team’s Game 6 win was the need to pick up the intensity for Game 7 on the road.
“The face-offs weren’t great, as the game wore on the chances seemed to be in their favor,” Laviolette said. “They were quicker to the pucks, a little stronger in their battles. You know we are going to have to be better in Boston. We are going to have to play a game with a little more intensity than [Wednesday].”
|05.14.10 at 12:50 pm ET|
The Flyers had a light, optional morning skate before Friday night’s Game 7 against the Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette insisted that nothing changes for his team heading into the biggest game of the season and that they are used to the pressure that this point playing “our fifth Game 7,” referring to the string of elimination games the Flyers have faced in coming back from a three games to none series deficit to force the ultimate game at TD Garden.
“We are in a familiar spot. It really is our fifth time that we have been faced with elimination and we are ready for this. The message hasn’t changed since Day 1 since I have been here to right now,” Laviolette said. “Everything stays the same, the meetings stay the same, the message is the same. What is expected is the same. It is important that we go our and do what we have been doing because, since Christmas time is has brought us a lot of success.”
Laviolette stressed that to win Game 7 the Flyers will need to have a good team effort in addition to the continued solid play of their stars like Chris Pronger, Mike Richards and Danny Briere. Pronger is a +1 with six points for the series, Briere is +2 with four goals and four assists and Richards has three goals and five assists at a -1.
“I feel like we are still here today because of what is in our room. A guy like Chris Pronger, not only has he proven it in the past, like you are talking about, but he has proven it already here,” Laviolette said. “Our team has been in survival mode. Mike Richards, a guy like Danny Briere steps up. Chris Pronger has played all those minutes. Guys who have proven they can get there and handle the pressure of an elimination game and not only handle it but excel in it.”
Yet, through the last three games some of the “grittier” player on the Flyers have stepped up such as Ville Leino (two goals and an assist) and Scott Hartnell (goal and an assist) who are a combined +7 as Philadelphia has made its comeback in the last three games.
“This morning we talked about how our entire team needs to be successful,” Laviolette said. “We rely on each other and it will be a team effort. If we go out and play the way we need to play to be sucessful tonight then the thing we will be talking about tomorrow morning is ‘what a terrific team effort that was.’ That is how we will find success tonight. It won’t be because of one player. Somebody has to score the winning goal. Somebody has to make the big save or block a big shot but in the end our best chance of success is through our entire group, the gritty guys.”
In the end, the question remains the same for these Flyers and Laviolette summed it up best when talking about the approach that Philadelphia has taken to force the deciding Game 7.
“We really methodically went very slow. One game. Game 4 and here we are at Game 7 and the question still remains the same ‘do we think we can beat the Boston Bruins tonight?’” Laviolette said. “And, there is a belief in our room that our team is a good hockey team and we can win.”
|05.14.10 at 11:43 am ET|
On the morning of the biggest game of the season, Bruins coach Claude Julien decided to let his players have the morning off as opposed to coming to TD Garden for a morning skate prior to Game 7 against the Flyers on Friday night. Julien said that since the Bruins had a late night in Philadelphia on Wednesday and practiced at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington on Thursday, that it was appropriate to give his players the day to rest.
“First thing that I think you have to remember is that we had a late game the other night and didn’t get in until the morning. We practiced yesterday and did all the things that we needed to do to prepare for tonight. So, give our guys an opportunity to get some rest, simple as that,” Julien said. “We have done it before, sometimes in back-to-backs. Stay home and come to the rink. That was our idea behind this is that our guys need to rest and basically we have played these guys or we are going to play these guys seven times in a row. There is not much we don’t already know about the other team. So, come ready to play.”
It is the first time of the playoffs that the Bruins have completely skipped the morning skate through they have had optional skates and days off between games where only players receiving treatment have been required to report.
“Both teams are going to be reay,” Julien said. “Anytime you play a Game 7 where the winner moves on you have to be ready. For us it is a matter of not bogging them down with what has happened the last few games but focus on what we have to do tonight. The bottom line is, if you win tonight you move on and that is forgotten. But that is what we have got to do here is stay focused and stay prepared and I think that our guys are up to the task.”
As per usual, Julien declined to give any indication of what his roster would look like on Friday night but there was speculation after practice on Thursday that rookie center/forward Brad Marchand might get into the game after dressing in a grey practice sweater, normally reserved for the second line, as opposed to a red sweater that indicates the checking line and “fifth” line.
“Big players have to come up big in big games but at the same time I have also seen unsung heroes do that same thing,” Julien said in response to how Zdeno Chara could play on Friday. “In those kind of games you go in there and hope that somebody will make a difference and I don’t care if it is your best players or your role players. I just care that somebody comes up big and does something good for us and that is what you try to challenge your whole team to do. If you challenge only your key players then you are telling your other players you don’t care what they do. You want everybody to be difference makers, or go in with that intent anyway.”
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