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BRUINS 6, FLYERS 3

Thomas and Bruins find right flight path

PHILADELPHIA -- Doubt, the enemy of every goalie, had entered Tim Thomas's mind.

It started when Philadelphia forward Scottie Upshall, one of the players the Flyers acquired last week from Nashville in exchange for Peter Forsberg, scored 43 seconds into the second period, tying the game at 1-1.

It built at 7:08 when linemate Jeff Carter turned and fired a puck past Thomas that caught the netminder out of position.

And it crested after Kyle Calder, the other winger on Carter's line, flipped home the rebound of his own backhander at 16:12 of the second period.

"They had me fighting the puck," said Thomas, who was back on his heels instead of playing his usual aggressive style. "They scored a couple pretty good goals and had me second-guessing myself for a little while."

But as any goalie backstopping a team clawing for points must do, Thomas emerged in the third period. After the Bruins took a 5-3 lead, he made three sparkling stops, keeping the hard-skating Flyers -- Philadelphia outshot Boston in the period, 16-3 -- from getting back into the game and preserving a 6-3 victory for the Bruins last night before 19,209 at the Wachovia Center.

The Bruins, still deep in a hole in the chase for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, now have 60 points, 6 behind the Maple Leafs, Canadiens, and Islanders.

"I was fortunate I was able to get it back in the third period," said Thomas (30 saves). "And the team kept scoring goals, which made it a lot easier."

One of the major problems for the Bruins this season has been a lack of scoring depth. They've leaned heavily on the sticks of Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron, and Glen Murray.

Last night, they didn't have Bergeron, who missed his third straight game with a lower-body injury. Then sometime in the middle of the game Murray suffered a lower-body injury. Murray played only 3:02 in the second period, and was on the ice for only 62 seconds in the third, spending most of the final 20 minutes in the dressing room.

Coach Dave Lewis didn't say whether Murray's injury was related to the groin strain he suffered Feb. 5. Lewis said Murray will be re-evaluated prior to tonight's match against Toronto.

So with Bergeron out and Murray less than 100 percent, the Bruins turned to two unlikely sources. In the second period, 34 seconds after Carter's strike gave the Flyers a 2-1 advantage, P.J. Axelsson took a pass from Savard and beat goalie Antero Niittymaki to tie the score at 2-2, scoring for the first time in 15 games.

Then at 11:17, after some gritty work in the corners by fourth-liners Stanislav Chistov and Brad Boyes, Petr Tenkrat, the third man high on the attack, found some space in the slot. Tenkrat took a pass from Boyes and whistled a shot past Niittymaki. It was Tenkrat's first goal in 25 games; his last came Dec. 14 against the Devils.

Tenkrat wasn't finished. Later in the second period, Phil Kessel powered through defenseman Alexandre Picard, muscling a shot that Niittymaki stopped. But Tenkrat, trailing the play, crashed the net and jammed home the rebound at 15:36, giving the Bruins a 4-2 advantage.

Despite his scoring drought, Tenkrat has been contributing offensively. On Feb. 10, with the Bruins facing elimination in a shootout against the Islanders, Tenkrat beat goalie Rick DiPietro to keep his team alive, setting up Zdeno Chara's game-winner.

Then last Saturday, in the eighth round of the shootout against the Sabres, Tenkrat recorded the only goal, giving the Bruins two much-needed points.

"Long time ago," Tenkrat said of his last regulation goal. "But in the last game at Buffalo, I picked up the confidence somehow and I felt pretty good before that game. I'm just happy I could help the team win tonight. It's a really important win."

The victory couldn't have come, however, without Thomas's third-period contribution. After an initial stop on Upshall, Thomas gloved a rebound attempt by Carter at 7:06. He snatched a slapper off the stick of sniper Simon Gagne at 11:13. Then at 13:59, after Picard slid a cross-crease pass to Calder, Thomas tracked the puck from right to left and stopped the forward's shot, keeping Boston's two-goal lead intact.

"I don't recall who it was on," Lewis said of Thomas's save on Calder. "But it was a spectacular save."

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