PHILADELPHIA -- The Bruins just looked into the mirror.
Game 4 in Philadelphia was almost exactly like Game 1 in Boston except that everything was reversed. The Bruins went up two goals in the series opener only to watch the Flyers come back and force overtime before the emotional game-winner by Marc Savard returning from a Grade 2 concussion that gave Boston a 5-4 win at TD Garden.
On Friday, Philadelphia came out and got up two goals in the second period only for the Bruins to tie it with 31.5 seconds in the third. This time, Boston blinked in overtime when Simon Gagne came back earlier than expected from a broken toe to score the game-winner, 5-4 at the Wachovia Center. (Recap.)
Funny how these things work.
“It is tough obviously but you have to realize that we got one win on the road, that is always good, .500 and that is good. Now we just got to go home and take care of the job,” goaltender Tuukka Rask said.
Gagne was not supposed to be back until Game 5 at the earliest and the Bruins probably wish that forecast had been accurate.
“I felt pretty good when I came in this morning. This is where we decided to go and play,” Gagne said. “I just try to go out and do my best, maybe I got lucky on this one but I don’t know. It was good timing.”
An elimination game for a team struggling without two of its top goal scorers trying to avoid a sweep in their own building? Hell yeah, that was good timing.
It was Gagne’s only shift of the overtime because he had been cramping up a little bit towards the end of the third and Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said that it was the forward’s decision to get back on the ice. He tipped the puck in after a shot from defenseman Matt Carle rebounded off Rask and the netminder could not control it with Gagne on his doorstep.
“I was expecting that kind of pass but it is hard to recover with your pad. I just try to get my glove there and the puck went under it, you know, eh, it happens,” Rask said.
Here is the Hat Trick as the Eastern Conference semifinals continue, for at least one more game:
MARK RECCHI MASTERED THE UNBELIEVEABLE
It is a shame that Mark Recchi probably will not end up getting one of those NHL playoff “what if” commercials because his goal to tie it with 31.5 seconds left was simply amazing.
Everyone in the building had a foot out the door. Rask was on the bench for an extra attacker and Patrice Bergeron was ready to take a final faceoff in the Flyers zone for one last attack.
Bergeron did not exactly win the draw as the puck went to the corner as opposed to the blue line, but he went and retrieved it through traffic, kicked it out to Dennis Wideman on the point and got the puck back and fired on Brian Boucher from the half wall. The puck sailed through traffic to Recchi on the opposite elbow and instead of one-timing it, he settled and put it on top of the net.
Recchi was not sure if he ever had a goal like that in the playoffs through 161 previous NHL postseason games. It was the type of goal that will be remembered by observers for a long while, even though the Bruins dropped the game in overtime.
Yet, because of the loss, Recchi is one who is ready to forget.
“It was a great play by [Bergeron] and I was fortunate to rebound but forget about it and move to Monday,” Recchi said.
It was his second goal of the game and he missed a close chance during the extra frame for a storybook hat trick.
Without the play of Recchi and Miroslav Satan through the playoffs, Boston would not be in the strong position it is in to move to the conference finals. GM Peter Chiarelli’s midseason moves for the two veterans have proved quite astute. The Bruins are certainly getting their money’s worth out of their contracts in playoff superlatives alone.
Recchi, in particular, has been at the heart of the Bruins’ playoff charge, both in his work on the ice and his pragmatic leadership off of it.
“We came here and played two pretty good games,” Recchi said. “They battled hard and came out with a big win but we have home ice in this series, we've kept it and now take a couple days off and regroup and recharge and get ready for another big one on Monday.”
For defenseman Mark Stuart, it just seems like par for the course for a guy like Recchi. The veteran has delivered six playoff goals this year and remains a bundle of motivation crashing the net.
“He is playing great. He is one of our best players and a leader on our team. You know what to expect from him every night, that is for sure,” Stuart said.
KREJCI’S ABSENCE WAS FELT
About halfway through the second period, one got a sense that there was something missing from the Bruins attack. Through the postseason their centers have been very good at controlling the puck and the point of play and creating great scoring chances off the half walls.
That is where David Krejci lives on the ice, making plays around the dots. But, he is gone and was seen in the hallway outside the Bruins dressing room in a suit with a sling on his arm. He needs four months of rehabilitation and will be sorely missed on special teams.
Vladmir Sobotka moved up in the rotation with the loss of Krejci. He made some great plays on Friday, especially on a Michael Ryder goal that was a shot wide of Boucher that rebounded off the end wall to the corner of the crease. Boucher went to cover and had his glove on the puck when Sobotka crashed the net and hit Boucher’s glove with his stick and squirted it through the goaltender’s legs. It was a physical, gritty hustle play that embodies Sobotka’s game, in contrast to the finesse that Krejci offers.
But Sobotka can be a little overwhelmed by the better centers the Flyers have to offer and came away on the night at -2, even after picking up a plus on Ryder’s goal. He played 10:30 through 15 shifts and was banged up a couple of times that had him off the ice and off the bench. He has great, strong legs but overall is a small player and his talent does not always make up for his physical limitations.
Trent Whitfield was the other center who got a chance in the lineup without Krejci, and he was solid if unspectacular on the fourth line. He was break even in six faceoffs, a neutral plus/minus for the game and did not register anything in the stat line, from a shot to a hit to a blocked shot, a giveaway or a takeaway. He was largely invisible for his 8:02 of time on the ice. When Sobotka is centering the checking line, he is never invisible.
So, the Bruins roster all of a sudden has some dead weight, like a National League lineup where the pitcher has to bat. Basically a give away spot. Whitfield can be productive but he will also need some time in game play after only being a practice guy with the Bruins for the end of the season and playoffs.
STUART WILL BE BETTER
Another player returning to the ice after a long layoff was Stuart. He missed every game since April 1 with cellulitis in his left hand and returned for a pressure packed playoff game in a road venue against a desperate team.
He said before and after the game that he felt fine physically but the mental part was just not there for him through most of the contest.
“Physically I felt all right and made some mental mistakes out there I think but, you know what, I will be a lot better,” Stuart said. “A little bit better there in the third but definitely not in the first and half of the second. I wasn't quite getting to areas but you can only go up from here so I am ready to improve.”
Stuart was a -2 on the night and seemed at times like he was a step behind the play. He did not play a second of the nearly 15 minutes of overtime because coach Claude Julien probably felt that he had become a liability through the game, which was definitely the case. He was not playing with a ton of confidence and beat himself up at his stall in the visiting dressing room of the Wachovia Center.
“I wasn't surprised that I wasn't out there,” Stuart said. “I don't think I showed enough during the game to deserve to be out there in overtime. So, yeah, I wasn't too surprised about that.”
Stuart has dealt with some odd injuries this year -- a broken pinky (that ultimately led to the cellulitis) and a broken sternum. When he was on the ice and playing with the confidence of a fully matured NHL defenseman, he was a borderline top-two defender and a very solid stalwart in a second pairing.
On Friday he pretty much stepped into rookie Adam McQuaid’s shoes, in more ways than just being paired with Andrew Ference.
McQuaid was a liability the last couple of games against the Flyers and seemed to have lost the ability to move the puck or pinch effectively on the walls. Julien gave him about 10 minutes of ice time per game and tried not to have him in the game in key spots. Stuart got 16 shifts for 9:46 of ice time and was not out there for the biggest moments.
That will not last. Stuart will continue to work and the mental side that left him in Game 4 likely will come along. He is too good for it not to do so.