|05.12.10 at 8:45 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — From well before the opening face-off, this game in Philadelphia had a far different feel – in terms of energy in the building – than the previous two. The Flyers capitalized on the early momentum by taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
And the Wachovia Center crowd, fired up by video board inspiration from Vince Lombardi, Winston Churchill and graphics that screamed in bold letters, “WE WILL MAKE HISTORY,” had plenty to cheer early on. The Flyers applied pressure in their opening three shifts.
The Flyers rewarded their fans when Mike Richards netted a loose rebound in front of Tuukka Rask at 6:58 of the first period. As he has been since returning to the lineup, Simon Gagne was again the difference-maker, starting the play by putting a quick backhander on Rask that the Bruins goalie could not control.
The Flyers then had a chance to go up two on the first power play of the game. But it was the Bruins who nearly tied it when Trent Whitfield intercepted a pass at the Boston blue line and skated in on Michael Leighton. The Flyers goalie replacing Brian Boucher came up with his biggest save of the season, stoning Whitfield and keeping it, 1-0.
The only bigger save for Philly this season came on the same end of the same sheet of ice on the last day of the regular season when Boucher stopped Olli Jokinen of the Rangers in a shoot-out to send the Flyers to the playoffs.
The Bruins, with Zdeno Chara pinching in deep as he did during the season when the Bruins were searching for offense, applied good pressure in the final three minutes but still couldn’t break Leighton.
The Bruins, with the late rush, outshot the Flyers, 9-8.
|05.12.10 at 1:24 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — While Zdeno Chara wears the ‘C’ as captain, Mark Stuart’s return has been a steadying influence in the Bruins dressing room.
He missed the last two weeks of the regular season with an infection following surgery on his pinkie. And then he missed the opening round against Buffalo and the first three games against the Flyers. When he finally returned in Game 4 of this series against the Flyers, a quiet leader had returned to the Bruins dressing room.
That leadership was on full display on Wednesday morning when asked if he and his fellow defensemen need to get more offensive pressure on just-returning Flyers goalie Michael Leighton after getting just two shots on net in Monday’s 4-0 loss.
“Obviously, we want to get as many shots as we can,” Stuart said. “We didn’t do a great job of that last game. Tonight’s a new night here. If we can just forget about last game and quit talking about it and go play tonight.”
“Anybody who’s been out for a long time, it just doesn’t come back overnight,” Julien added. “What you need to see is a guy getting better and better and I think Mark was better in the second game than he was in the first and hopefully he’ll be better in the third than he was in the second so it’s like every player that comes back, you hope that they get better as they move on here.
“Mark, to me, was a much better player than he was in the first and hopefully, that continues.”
Just as obvious to the Bruins is the mission at hand tonight. They are hoping to avoid the pressure of a do-or-die Game 7 back in Boston on Friday night by beat the Philadelphia Flyers tonight at the Wachovia Center. The Bruins now lead the series, 3-2, after dropping the last two games while the Flyers have gained momentum with star Simon Gagne back in the lineup.
Stuart is not the only defenseman looking to pick up his game after not getting a shot on net. Matt Hunwick was also blanked on the shot chart.
“I think we just need to relax a little bit more and not hold the stick too tight and just play how we played the first three games,” Hunwick said. “We battled the first three games. They were tight, they were close but we found ways to win. I think we can look back on those efforts and we should do a little bit better tonight.”
As for the Bruins getting together for Kumbaya, Unbuntu or any other team-building the night before Game 6, Julien said there was no need.
“I don’t think there was anything special [Tuesday] night. We didn’t do a team dinner but I think our guys, in order to have success, we can’t be tense,” Julien said following this morning’s optional pre-game skate at the Wachovia Center. “Being relaxed is maybe not even the right word but in the right frame of mind and hopefully that’s what we show tonight when we start the game.”
The Flyers can become the first NHL team since 1976 to force a Game 7 after being down 3-0 with a win on home ice tonight and are looking to become the fourth major pro sports team to win a series after being in a 3-0 hole.
‘We haven’t talked about it much,’ admitted Flyers coach Peter Laviolette Wednesday. ‘Certainly everybody understands the difficult challenge that an 0-3 series presents. That’s part of the story you write through the course of the playoffs if you’re able to get through it, it’s part of the story. Our guys are well aware of it. Certainly they know not many teams get an opportunity at something like this. Any time you can put your name to a positive mark in history like that, it certainly would be a good thing.’
For the Flyers, head coach Peter Laviolette indicated that forward Claude Giroux would be ready for Game 6 after being held out of the third period on Monday after a hit to the boards from Steve Begin.
|05.12.10 at 1:23 pm ET|
The Bruins have already had two chances to close out the Philadelphia Flyers and book their ticket to the Eastern Conference finals. On Wednesday night, they will hope that the third time is the charm. Because if it isn’t, this series will head back to Boston and the Bruins could find themselves in an unenviable position ‘ with their backs against the wall and infamy staring them in the face.
After winning Game 4 in Philly, the Flyers insisted that the pressure fell squarely on the Bruins. If that wasn’t the case then, it surely will be Wednesday, when the Bruins try to come back from a disastrous performance in Game 5’s 4-0 loss. Chalk it up to nerves or over-confidence, but the Bruins were at a loss to explain their performance at TD Garden on Monday. Credit the Flyers for showing up and getting the job done, but it was clear that the Bruins were not the same team that they was on the ice in the first three games of this series.
Now it is the Flyers who have all the confidence and the Bruins who are on their heels. Not only do the Flyers believe that they can make history and become just the third team in NHL history to come back from an 0-3 hole, but there is also sentiment from the national media that the Flyers have the momentum in this series.
This is despite the fact that Philly will be playing with another new goaltender ‘ Michael Leighton ‘ after Brian Boucher’s injury. The Flyers have gone from Ray Emery to Boucher and now their third-stringer, who himself was coming back from an injury Monday night. But the Flyers say that they believe Leighton can get the job done, and the newest Philly netminder agrees.
He certainly looked capable in stopping 14 shots in his roughly two periods of play Monday night in relief of Boucher. But it was not just the play in net that helped Philly cut the series deficit to 3-2; the Flyers balance has been a key ingredient in their turnaround. With both teams bruised and battered after the first five games, the Flyers’ momentum could give them an edge.
Of course, the Bruins played well in their two games at the Wachovia Center, earning the 4-1 win in Game 3 and narrowly missing the opportunity to close things out in the 5-4 overtime loss in Game 4. But that was the past, and now the Flyers have the chance to make history. Winning four straight seems like an improbable achievement, but the way the Flyers looked Monday it appears that they have quite a few believers. It is up to the Bruins, now, to prove those people wrong.
|05.11.10 at 2:30 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Somebody needs to take a little bit of an edge off these Bruins.
Captain Zdeno Chara made a half-admission after Game 5 on Monday night that the team may have been a touch nervous heading into what could have been a series-clinching victory.
I don’t know if we were maybe a little bit nervous. It’s hard to explain and really find words for it so for sure we didn’t play with the composure we were playing with,” Chara said Monday. “Maybe it wasn’t nervous, it was just’¦ we couldn’t make those plays we normally do, strong plays with the puck, plays that we are normally doing and all of the sudden it was tough for us to make those plays.”
In the grand world of hockey cliches, this is what is called “clutching the stick.” The Bruins need someone, be it Johnny Boychuk and his eccentric antics, Shawn Thornton and his smile and his wife’s cooking or Claude Julien putting “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” on repeat on the team plane.
“Everybody can keep it loose and there is no reason to tense up and grip the sticks too tight,” Boychuk said. “We know what we have to do and just go out there and do it. There are times to keep loose and times to focus and we know that and that is what we have been trying to do.”
Thornton was of the opinion that, heading into Game 5, the team was relatively loose and had a good energy level. For the most part the Bruins tend to be a loose team. Chara and Patrice Bergeron are serious with the media and on the ice but there are moments when you catch them joking around with the guys. Thornton thinks that everybody on the team has a role to play in taking the edge off. He would not name specific characters for fear of being labeled the jokester by the coaching staff.
“We have got a few guys who like to keep things loose. It wasn’t too tense today [Tuesday,” Thornton said. “We did a pretty good job of forgetting about losses and forgetting about wins and moving on. We learned some things today and move on to the next one. There is nothing you can do. There was only seven on the ice but before the game too, there was a lot of energy. I don’t know. We definitely didn’t play the game we wanted to but honestly I thought going into it that we felt pretty good.”
Coach Claude Julien agreed that everybody on the teams plays their part in keeping the room loose and said that, when it really come down to it, winning is what puts a smiles on everyone’s face.
“We all have a part to do in that. I am telling you right now that we have too put yesterday aside and learn from it,” Julien said. “That is what the players have to do and so do the coaches. You know, we have to take the same approach as a group and that is what we have done here. We have to focus as a group and do what we need to do tomorrow and hopefully those are good things and that we can come back with smiles on our faces.”
|05.11.10 at 2:19 pm ET|
For the first three games of the series, the Bruins showed exactly what it takes to win playoff hockey games. Make the key play at the key moment while keeping your cool.
It paid off in Game 1 when the Flyers scored twice in the final eight minutes to force overtime. It paid off in Game 2 when Milan Lucic turned and fired a shot on an unsuspecting Brian Boucher for the game-winner. And it paid off in Game 3 when the Flyers scored to open the game in their building, only to have the Bruins score twice in the next five minutes to take command and not look back.
But all of a sudden, it’s the Flyers who have found the magic touch. They were the ones who were scored on in the final 31 seconds of regulation in Game 4 with the series on the line, only to net the game-winner off the stick of Simon Gagne in overtime.
Then Monday night, the Flyers scored in the opening seven minutes and got some lucky bounces to hold on to the lead while the Bruins were taking penalty after penalty, sapping them of any strength to come back as the Flyers prevailed, 4-0.
Now, with the Bruins’ lead down to 3-2, the stage is set for Game 6 in Philadelphia Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at the Wachovia Center.
“It’s buckling down and playing good hockey,” Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference said. “You know, both games that they’ve won now have been very deserved wins, so that’s what you’re going to get this time of this year. You’re not just going to show up, sneak by anybody, and get an easy win. I mean, the team that plays the best hockey will most of the time end up with a win, and that’s what’s happened.”
And if they don’t take care of business and ‘buckle down’ on Wednesday on Broad Street? Get ready to hear all about the about the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1975 New York Islanders and, of course, the 2004 Red Sox. They are the three teams that have come back in major professional sports from 3-0 deficits to win a best-of-seven playoff series.
Ference says the Bruins would be well advised to just take a deep breath.
“I think a lot of the breakdowns, going back early, was not making good plays, you know, good breakouts and good passes, and you know, just calming down and making good plays,” he said. “I mean, it’s something that when you do it well from us to the forwards, it makes us a much better team, But you know, we started turning over a lot of pucks and creating a lot of problems for ourselves on top of what they were creating themselves, so they played well and we also hurt ourselves by some of the stuff we did.”
This series started with the Flyers missing Simon Gagne, Jeff Carter and Ian Laperriere. But as hockey fate would have it, the Bruins lost Marco Sturm in Game 1 and David Krejci in Game 3 while the Flyers got Gagne back in Game 4 and could have Carter back for a Game 7 Friday in Boston.
“Of course we miss him,” Ference said of Krejci. “He’s a great player ‘ just as much as we missed Savvy [Marc Savard], and just as much as we missed Marco [Sturm] and Bergy [Patrice Bergeron]. You know, we’ve had great players for extended periods before and he’s left out of the lineup, but tough luck.
“That’s just the way it works and some other guys have to step up, so you know, the good teams that have won in the past, that’s always a storyline ‘ you know guys step into increased ice time and increased roles and make the most of it, so obviously that has to be a storyline for us if we’re going to have any success is somebody or a few guys stepping up and you know, trying to fill some of those points and fill some of those plays and that energy that he brings.”
|05.11.10 at 1:44 am ET|
Zdeno Chara, Mark Recchi, Tuukka Rask, Marc Savard and Milan Lucic react to a disappointing 4-0 loss to the Flyers at TD Garden in Game 5 of the NHL Eastern Conference semifinals. The Bruins now lead the series 3-2.
|05.11.10 at 12:39 am ET|
When last Michael Leighton was playing hockey in Boston, he was walking out of Fenway Park, not TD Garden. And he was walking a stunned loser of a classic hockey contest, not the hero who came out of nowhere Monday night to rescue the Flyers and continue their season.
“We know we can,” Leighton said. “In my eyes we’ve outplayed this team most of the games. The first game we came out slow because we had a long break. We’ve been there every game it’s not like they’re blowing us out. So we’re confident as long as we come out and we’re ready to play every game that we can win each game. We’re just taking it game by game right now. We just have to brush this under the rug now and head back home and focus on that game.”
Leighton was cleared to play before the game after missing nearly two months with a high right ankle sprain but seemed unlikely to play with Brian Boucher taking over the goaltending responsibilities and the Flyers playing hard in front of him.
But then Boucher fell backwards very awkwardly in the opening five minutes of the second period, injuring both knees according to Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren.
“I just went up to him and I didn’t know the extent of the injury so I asked him how he was doing,” Leighton said. “He said great job to me, I said great job to him. He was playing great the first period and that added a little incentive.”
While Boucher was being gingerly helped to his skates and off the ice, Leighton made his first appearance for the Flyers since March 16, when he injured his knee in Nashville.
Maybe it’s only appropriate that, win or lose, the season comes down to Michael Leighton since he was the man who replaced Ray Emery and Brian Boucher at the beginning of the season. Then he was installed as the No. 1 even when Boucher returned.
“I actually couldn’t even believe it happened,” Leighton said of the Boucher injury. “Obviously Ray going down early and then [Brian Boucher] goes down then Ray comes back then I get hurt. It’s definitely been a roller coaster for the goalies this year but the team has done great playing in front of all of us. Ray’s a great goalie and we wish him back and Boucher obviously has done well for this team and he’s gotten us to the position we’re in.”
So why then does Leighton believe the Flyers can continue their roll?
“Because we’re a good team,” he said. “Look at our lineup. As long as we play well and we’re confident in the way we can play, we’re a good team and we’ve shown that. Throughout the season we’ve won the games we’ve needed to win, we’ve beaten some good teams. We’ve obviously lost to some teams that we should have beaten but we beat Detroit we beat Chicago, we beat the good teams. So confidence shouldn’t be a problem because we know we can play with those teams.”
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