|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.”
|05.10.10 at 9:33 pm ET|
Summary ‘ The Flyers will be going home with their season still alive after taking care of the Bruins 4-0 on Monday in Game 5. Tuukka Rask gave up four goals on 31 shots en route to his second straight loss of the series after winning the first three contests. The series shifts back to Philadelphia on Wednesday as the Bruins have two more chances to try and put the Flyers away to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1992.
Brian Boucher started in net for the Flyers, but only played in for 24:31 and left the game in the second period after getting his leg pinned back in a scrum in front of the net and having to be helped off the ice. Boucher stopped all nine Bruins shots he faced and left the game with a 1-0 lead. Michael Leighton replaced Boucher and made his first career NHL playoff appearance as well as his first appearance in a game since March 16. Leighton stopped the rest of the Bruins 14 shots to share the first combined shutout of the Bruins in a playoff game since Montreal did it in 1955.
The Flyers got on the board first as Ville Leino’s hard work in the series was rewarded when he slammed home a rebound that Rask left in the slot off a shot from the point by Chris Pronger at 6:41 in the first. It was the second goal of the postseason for Leino. The goal was originally charged to Scott Hartnell but changed to Leino after review in between the first and second periods.
The same Philadelphia line struck again in the second when a blocked shot in the slot in front of Rask led to a loose puck getting throw towards the crease. That’s where Danny Briere caught it at the corner and tried to flip it passed Rask and Hartnell was on the other side to ram home the oscillating puck to make it 2-0 at 11:16. It was Hartnell’s first goal of the playoffs after scoring 14 during the regular season.
After Steve Begin went for a boarding call on Claude Giroux at 17:00, Simon Gagne scored his second of the playoffs on the power play in the second. Gagne got the puck on a rebound from Mike Richards and Leino putting the puck on Rask and got the easy put back to make it 3-0 at 17:53.
Gagne struck again to really put the game out of reach at 6:48 in the third period when Dennis Wideman could not control a back pass at the blue line as the puck slid through him into neutral ice while he dropped his stick. Gagne chased the puck down, easily eluding Wideman’s attempt to box him out and took the breakaway straight on Rask for an easy score to make it 4-0.
Ville Leino — Has been the hardest-working member of the Flyers the past two games and it showed on the scoreboard on Monday with a goal and an assist.
Simon Gagne — The forward played in his second game of the series after toe surgery at the end of the Flyers quarterfinals series against the Devils and has three goals, including two in Game 5, since his return.
Brian Boucher/Michael Leighton — The Bruins did the goaltenders a bunch of favors on the night but they still combined to shutdown the Bruins offense for most of the night to take the game back to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Wednesday. It was the first combined shutout for the Flyers in their playoff history.
Turning Point — Boucher had only seen nine shots before Leighton replaced him and it looked like a golden opportunity for the Bruins to climb back into it. But Hartnell scored about six minutes later and Gagne added the demoralizer on the power play late in the second period as the Flyers took control of the game.
Key Play — Gagne’s goal was the first power play goal Philadelphia scored since Game 1 and came after the Bruins had killed the first five power plays the Flyers had on the night. The three-goal lead would be too much for Boston to overcome on en route to its second straight loss in the series.
|05.10.10 at 8:55 pm ET|
This is what it felt like for the Bruins against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2 of the same round last spring.
They were coming off a 4-1 rout of the Hurricanes in Game 1 and they had just blown away the Canadiens in four straight the round before.
Then Game 2 happened and the whole perspective of the series changed.
Fast forward to tonight and a 3-0 Flyers lead after two periods. The Bruins had just lost a heart-breaker in overtime in Philly but still had a commanding 3-1 series lead, needing just to win Game 5 on home ice to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1992.
But the Flyers came to play and fight for their lives, even when Brian Boucher went down in the opening five minutes of the second with what appeared to be a nasty lower body injury. Boucher made a save and then immediately grabbed his midsection. He could barely make it to his skates before being helped off by Chris Pronger.
Enter Michael Leighton, the same Michael Leighton who started at Fenway Park on Jan. 1 and the same Michael Leighton who hadn’t even been active in a game since suffering a high ankle sprain on March 16 in Nashville.
He was tested on a Bruins power play and then the Flyers rewarded him when Scott Hartnell finally got credit for a goal. Then the Bruins started taking undisciplined penalties and Simon Gagne finally made them pay with a power play goal on Philadelphia’s fifth chance of the night.
The Flyers will begin the third period with another power play as Andrew Ference was whistled for a cross-checking penalty.
|05.10.10 at 7:52 pm ET|
The Flyers apparently brought their rabbit foots, horseshoes and other assorted good luck charms for Game 5 as they lead the Bruins, 1-0, after 20 minutes.
Villie Leino gave the Flyers the lead at 6:41 of the first period when Chris Pronger took a shot from the mid-slot that Tuukka Rask could not contain. The rebound came out to the left of Rask and Scott Hartnell was originally credited with the goal when it appeared he poked in the rebound for his first goal of the playoffs and first in 22 games. But a replay showed it was Leino and he was given his second of the playoffs.
The Flyers then had a golden opportunity to add to it when Vladimir Sobotka took a high sticking penalty on Hartnell. But the Bruins killed off 2 minutes, 37 seconds of it when the Flyers took a sloppy penalty on a line change for too many men on the ice.
Toward the end of the Bruins power play, Marc Savard had the puck on his stick and appeared to score, only to have the puck slip behind Boucher and through the crease.
Earlier in the first, Blake Wheeler was all alone in front of Boucher for a point-blank chance, only to have the puck roll off his stick before he could fire a shot. Then there was the shot from the right point that Milan Lucic and Miroslav Satan both appeared to get a piece of. The spotlight came on in front of Boucher, signaling a goal celebration.
One minor problem. The puck bounced straight up in the air and Boucher gloved it.
The Flyers outshot the Bruins, 10-8, in the first period and will start the second period with 33 seconds of power play time after Satan was called for a tripping late in the period.
|05.10.10 at 5:56 pm ET|
It is easy to forget that Brian Boucher is actually the third choice for the Flyers between the crease. The first was Ray Emery, lost for the season with a hip injury and the second was Michael Leighton who went down with a high ankle-sprain in early March.
The recovery time for a high-ankle sprain is supposed to be about eight weeks and then perhaps another couple for a skater to get back into optimal game condition. The Bruins Milan Lucic had a high-ankle sprain and has said repeatedly that it was the worst injury that anybody could go through and that he wishes it on nobody. Leighton admitted on Monday before Game 5 against the Bruins that it was definitely the worst injury of his career.
“You can strengthen all the muscles around it but that muscle just takes time to heal,” Leighton said. “You are still going to feel a little bit of pain for a while and it takes a long time to go away. It is a tough injury and I have never had it before and people tell me its the worst and so far it has been the worst of my career.”
Leighton said that he has been pushing for the playoffs because he has never actually played in an NHL playoff game through parts of nine seasons as a backup with 103 games under his belt since 2001. He has 27 games for Philadelphia with a 16-5-2 record, .918 save percentage and 2.48 goals against average. Outstanding numbers if he were able to replicate them through an entire season but up to this point in his career (he turns 29 in nine days) he has not been given the opportunity for full time status.
Now that Boucher has led the Flyers passed the New Jersey Devils in the quarterfinals, it probably does not matter how healthy Leighton is for the rest of series even if Boucher falls off a cliff coach Peter Laviolette will probably not put him in the net.
“He has just recently caught some good practices and we haven’t practiced a lot as a team due to the schedule so he has gotten some opportunities in practice where he has looked good, but I think there is always something to that game situation that you are talking about,” Laviolette said. “As far as the lineup goes tonight, Brian Boucher has played excellent for us. He looked really sharp this morning and I would expect a great game from not only our goaltenders, but everybody that plays the ice in front of them. You don’t have crystal balls to see how a game will pan out but Bouch [Brian Boucher] has been outstanding for us and he has put us in the position where we are today.”
For Leighton’s part, he seems frustrated and ready to usurp Boucher at first possible opportunity.
“I feel good. It has been about seven weeks and have been doing a lot of work and probably ready to play. Tuesday will be eight weeks so I want to get back into the lineup,” Leighton said. “Getting into the butterfly too start was the worst. I was doing a lot of stuff off ice the but the butterfly was the hardest thing to do for the first five or six weeks. I was able to push off it while I was in the butterfly, so, everything feels good now.”