By JAY BOEHMER
Staff Writer — email@example.com
Each of these lower-seeded teams upset their respective opponents in the opening round of these Stanley Cup Playoffs to move on to this Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup.
The Flyers sat waiting to see whether they’d face the Boston Bruins or the Washington Capitals. The Capitals, a team dominant in the regular season but not built for the gritty style of the playoffs. The Bruins, a team much like themselves, who look for offensive turnovers and collapses tightly in their own end.
As it turned out, Philadelphia was matched up with the black and gold foes from the north, the Boston Bruins.
With eight days between games, the Flyers came out looking rusty, suffering a painfully slow start.
After Marco Sturm left the ice early in the first period with an injury, Steve Begin came on to replace him alongside former Flyer Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron. Recchi circled behind the Flyers net, throwing the puck out front through traffic, landing on the stick of Begin, who pinned it over the shoulder of Boucher for an early lead.
Later in the first, Danny Briere lost a faceoff to Bergeron, who crashed the net during a point shot by Dennis Wideman. Bergeron was left uncovered to backhand the puck past a sprawling Brian Boucher. Briere’s defensive woes proved to be a recurring theme throughout the afternoon.
That sloppy first period left the Flyers down 2-0 and in a bad position to be fighting their way back through a strong Bruins team and hot, upstart goaltender in Tuukka Rask.
The Flyers answered, coming out hard to start the second period. After killing a Mike Richards tripping penalty, they turned it up on offense as the captain put the puck down to Arron Asham, who slid it back through the slot to defenseman Ryan Parent, whose shot beat Rask to make the score 2-1.
Boston was able to put one in on the man advantage as Miroslav Satan fired home a rebound off a blocked shot from the point. The Flyers responded with a power play goal of their own, the first against Boston in the playoffs, as Chris Pronger shot a laser of a one timer right off the faceoff.
Continuing their quality play into the third, the Flyers dominated. Rask was the only thing keeping them from taking the lead for the first time of the afternoon. After a series of saves, the puck went the other way and into the Philadelphia zone. Boston was able to move the puck out from the corner, and Briere’s man was once again left alone as David Krejci picked up the puck in front of Boucher, with ample time to make a move and slide the puck behind him for a 4-2 lead.
A scrum between the feisty forty-two year old Mark Recchi and the much larger Chris Pronger led to a Flyers power play.
A line of Richards, Briere, and Hartnell capitalized on the forecheck as Briere slid it out front past the traffic created by Scott Hartnell to the stick of Mike Richards for a power play goal to pull within one.
Later in the period, Briere picked up the puck behind the Flyers net, took it up the boards, cut to center ice, fought through the pair of Bruins defenseman, put the puck on net, and finally buried his own rebound for a goal on one of the most impressive displays of skill from a Flyer yet in these playoffs.
His tying goal took the game to overtime, where the Bruins were the dominant team. Boucher single handedly fought off 6 shots in the first two minutes to keep his team alive. Both teams went back and forth for nearly ten minutes before the Bruins again took control.
This time, it was the recently returned Marc Savard, who missed almost two months due to a severe concussion suffered at the hands of Matt Cooke, who stepped up. The Flyers were caught scrambling, and he fired a slapshot through the traffic over the shoulder of Brian Boucher to seal the OT win.
Despite the loss of their best defensive forward in Ian Laperriere, and two of their top offensive players in Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne, the Flyers were able to control this game for much of the time.
If they can come back in Game 2 with the same style they showed in the second and third, as opposed to the slow footed team that came out to start, they can easily split the opening two games in Boston and go back to Philly having stolen home ice advantage.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Power Play: The Bruins kept their first round opponent, the Buffalo Sabres, from cashing in on a single power play, aided by the fact that they averaged just over three chances per game. The Flyers forced five power plays out of them, and capitalized on two of them.
Patrice Bergeron: Bergeron was the driving force behind the Bruin’s two goals to start off the first period. He provided the traffic on the first, and put the puck in himself on the second.
Danny Briere: In a new position, forced to play center with the recent absence of several other Flyers, Briere’s defensive responsibilities were left unattended, leading to a pair of Bruins goals. Fortunately, he brought his offensive skills to the fore for the Flyers final two goals to tie the game in the third.