Boston was ready. Saturday afternoon featured a big-time matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins at TD Garden. The Bruins already have the playoffs and division clinched. The only thing they’re playing for is the Presidents’ Trophy awarded to the team with the most points in the NHL.
The Flyers? Well they have a lot riding on these remaining games. They have not clinched a playoff spot. Currently they are sitting in third place in the Metropolitan Division with a potential date with the Rangers looming. Not to mention the Flyers have not won at Madison Square Garden since February 2011 so getting home-ice advantage against the Rangers is almost a necessity for their Stanley Cup hopes.
The Flyers needed at least one of the two points available on Saturday to give themselves a little bit of comfort heading into the final week of the season.
Philadelphia started off solid. Zac Rinaldo blasted Milan Lucic just 45 seconds into the game and Lucic’s retaliation put the Flyers on the power play almost immediately. They couldn’t capitalize but still played aggressive through the first 10 minutes.
There was a shift midway through the first period that tipped momentum towards the Bruins and Boston started swarming Flyers goaltender Ray Emery. Boston finally got on the board when David Krejci picked up the rebound off Loui Eriksson’s shot and scramble in front to beat Emery. It gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead and snapped a 17-game goal drought for Krejci.
As a team, the Flyers were dealing with their own goal drought. After being held scoreless in the first period, the Flyers were sitting at 150:25 without a goal entering the second period dating all the way back to the third period on Sunday.
It would go back-and-forth in the period when the Flyers went to work on the power play late in the second. After some passing around and missed shots, Claude Giroux got to the puck to Mark Streit who unleashed a slapshot on Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. Rask made the save but the rebound ended up on the tape of Wayne Simmonds who scored on the rebound. The goal tied the game and ended the Flyers’ drought at 165:01.
The tie game lasted all of 19 seconds when Krejci fed Lucic in the slot for a booming slapshot that beat Emery to put Boston back on top 2-1. The little momentum the Flyers gained from their goal was quickly eradicated by Lucic’s goal.
Philadelphia would not go away. About a minute and a half after Lucic put Boston on top, Michael Raffl worked the puck down low to Flyers enforcer Jay Rosehill. Rosehill pulled off a nice spin move and showed quick hands to get a shot off that beat Rask to make it a 2-2 game.
Entering the third period, the game was seemingly up for grabs if not tilting in the Flyers' favor. Philadelphia had gained momentum from Rosehill’s late, game-tying goal in the second period while the Bruins were entering the third period of their third game in four days.
Intuitively, the Flyers should’ve had the advantage. What actually happened was quite the opposite.
The Bruins came at the Flyers and countered every punch with two of their own until finally, with 6:06 remaining in the period, Patrice Bergeron won a faceoff back to defenseman Johnny Boychuck who blasted a slapshot through a maze of players and past Emery to put Boston up 3-2.
With the Flyers flipping the switch to desperation mode, the Bruins broke free on a 4-on-2 when Lucic flipped a wrist-shot that beat Emery to make it 4-2 just 31 seconds after they had taken the lead. And, for good measure, Chris Kelly added an empty-net goal to give the Bruins a 5-2 victory and handed the Flyers their fourth consecutive loss.
The loss marked the first time since the 1989-90 season that the Bruins had swept a season series from the Flyers. What really did the Flyers in was getting out-shot 42-26, including 22-8 in the Bruins' dominant third period.
There were a few bright spots the Flyers could reflect on following the loss. They proved they can actually light the lamp again as Simmonds scored on the power play while Jay Rosehill scored his first goal since November 9th while playing in his first game since March 8th.
Ray Emery, as puzzling as his start was, played very well until the Bruins became too much late in the third period. Emery made 37 saves and many of them were huge saves at key moments in the game.
As the Flyers head home to face the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night, there has to be a creeping concern about their inability to come out strong in the third period. Many members of the Flyers locker room cited their impatience in the third period for their loss Thursday to the Blue Jackets. Today’s game was an example of a team (the Bruins) that came out in the third period and took total control of the game and walked away with two points.
Buffalo is, without a doubt, the worst team in the NHL. They have only 51 points which is 11 behind the next closest team. The Flyers need two points on Sunday or else they are going to be in hot water.