Leave it to the Bruins and Flyers to make a 3-0 B's victory with Tim Thomas shutouts the most boring game between the squads this season.
Thursday night featured a healthy dose of evidence that when the Flyers are in town (or when the B's are in the City of Brotherly Love) something worth watching is going to happen. That's just what transpired on Thursday in a 7-5 Bruins win (recap). Neither team played its best hockey, but you'd be hard-pressed to find two teams want a game more.
Five lead changes, a maddening too-many men on the ice call, some 5-on-3 play, a fight with Boston enemy Jody Shelley that left Shawn Thornton with a bloodied face and Sean O'Donnell (of all people) scoring one of six third-period goals between the two teams. There's high intensity, and then there's the Bruins and Flyers.
The B's lost a memorable one to Philadelphia on Dec. 11 that saw Mike Richards turn a Marc Savard turnover into the game-winner with four seconds remaining in overtime. Given that contest, the bar was set high for the two teams, ranked first and third in the Eastern Conference, respectively, to cultivate a more exciting product, and they found a way.
No lead was safe, as each team took turns grabbing one goal edges and nothing more until Gregory Campbell's empty netter with seven seconds left. Steven Kampfer, who gave the B's the win at 18:46 of the third with his fourth goal, described the game as "teeter-totter" given the defensive shakiness that made it so possible for each team to strike back following the other's goal.
It wasn't the prettiest game from a technical standpoint, and there were turnovers, odd-man rushes, and breakaways. Despite the ups and downs, the Bruins were able to see the game through and take two points from the East's top team in the Flyers, who came in riding a four-game winning streak.
"They’re always good games with this team now," Mark Recchi said after the game. "And we had to be ready, and we knew they were going to be sharp. They’ve been on a pretty good roll too. They’re number one in the league for a reason. … It was just a good character win, and we kept battling."
Here's the Hat Trick:
HAS FERENCE FINALLY GOTTEN HURT?
The Bruins as a whole have to feel good about themselves after winning such a big game, but they once again find themselves wondering the fate of a teammate who left the game with some sort of injury. On Thursday, it was Andrew Ference who exited the contest after the second period.
The Bruins have been tight-lipped regarding the injuries of Nathan Horton, Adam McQuaid, and Milan Lucic lately, and they remained mum on the status of Ference.
"Obviously, I can’t tell you much about it because he’s being evaluated, the same as usual. I don’t have the whole details right now and tomorrow for sure we’ll update you guys on that."
Ference, who hasn't been able to put together a 60-game season since 2006-07 due to various injuries, was healthy as a horse into the second half of the season, dressing in each of the Bruins' first 43 games. He had a pair of goals and five assists for seven points.
Ference played both periods all the way through, so the fact that the injury didn't force him right out of the game, and that it was probably a decision made between periods, may be a good sign.
If Ference is out for an extended period of time, Claude Julien may have a future in fortune telling. Asked after the morning skate about Mark Stuart's impending return and how tough it might be to choose between making Adam McQuaid or Kampfer the odd man out, Julien suggested that anything could happen, and that by the time Stuart returns (which is expected to be in the next seven to 10 days), there might not even be a choice to make.
"Why answer it when we don’t even know how far he is and when the situation happens we’ll deal with," Julien said following the morning skate. "[There's] still a ways to go, and anything can happen. [We have] lots of games and so sometimes you have to make those decisions, sometimes you don’t so I’ll give myself a little break on that one."
Should the injury cost Ference a significant amount of time, the Bruins could take the patchwork approach by calling up Matt Bartkowski, who made his NHL debut Monday vs. the Penguins, until Stuart returns.
KAMPFER'S PLAY A HIT
Believe it or not, but Steven Kampfer is making a name for himself, and not just with his scoring touch.
The 22-year-old has been a fan favorite since being called up following Mark Stuart's injury on Dec. 7. He said following the game that given what his third-period goal meant in such a big game, it stands with his first career goal as his most memorable moments.
Yet for the Garden crowd that has embraced the rookie in his short time in Beantown, Kampfer's goal was just one of the things that had them screaming for the youngster. With the Bruins trailing, 5-4, with just under 11:23 remaining in the third, Kampfer sacrificed his body by laying a huge hit on Flyers forward Scott Hartnell in the neutral zone (video). Just 17 games into his NHL career, Kampfer felt his team needed the momentum shift in a game in which they were trailing, and he did something about it.
"Everyone talks about [how] you’ve gotta have an edge to your game," Kampfer said. "I’m not going to lie, I was a little mad that we had the lead at the beginning of the third and we gave it right back. … Personally, I thought something needed to change, and when I saw Hartnell coming down with his head down there, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to step up and put a hit on him, and try and get this crowd back in the game."
Julien saw the act as something that he likes to feel is characteristic of this year's team.
"It’s impressive. It’s character," Julien said of the rookie going after a big-name veteran to help the team. "I think again, you know, sometimes we forget a lot of the good things this team does. They’re very resilient, they don’t quit. You’ve seen us come back from a lot of deficits and right until the end they battle hard. Sometimes those guys deserve credit. Young guys like Kampfer want to be part of that group and they want to be part of the group that helps this team succeed. They’ll all do whatever it takes.
The rookie will rely on his skills as a puck-moving defenseman to determine his success in the NHL, but don't be surprised to see a big hit out of the Michgan native every now and then. Remember, Thornton told Kampfer to go out and hit somebody on his first shift in his NHL debut, which is exactly what he did back on Dec. 9 against the Islanders.
THIRD PERIOD ONCE AGAIN THE BRUINS' FRIEND
The Bruins entered the third period trailing, 3-2, on Thursday. Goals from Recchi and Michael Ryder in the first two minutes gave the team their second lead of the night. Despite the Flyers returning the favor with goals from Danny Briere and O'Donnell, the Bruins proved their third-period resilience. Brad Marchand scored his ninth of the season, and Kampfer put the B's up for good.
With Thursday's victory, the Bruins picked up their fifth win in a game in which they entered the third period trailing. They did the same thing Monday night in Pittsburgh when they scored four unanswered goals in the final 3:23 en route to a 4-2 victory.
The Bruins now 5-9-4 in those games, meaning they've managed to get 14 points in 18 games when behind after two.
"It’s like I tell they guys, a game is played in 60 minutes, so no matter what happens in the first forty, whether you’re ahead or not you've still got to play that last 20," Julien said. "The last two out of the three games we’ve been fighting from behind, and we’ve gone out there in the last 20 minutes and decided to change the outcome and found a way to win. And that’s what’s important and that’s something we can build on, and at least have some confidence that no matter what happens, we feel we’re in the game right until the end."