After the NHL trade deadline Tuesday, general manager Peter Chiarelli explained the trades that brought Aaron Ward and Dennis Wideman to Boston, noting that his defense was harder to play against now.
It took his legless players only one game to make their boss's words sound empty.
To a man, the players understood the importance of last night's game against the Flyers. They entered the night 8 points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference, with back-to-back matches coming up this weekend against the Canadiens and Devils.
Last night the Bruins were facing a team dead-last in the NHL.
The Bruins were back at full health, with Glen Murray (groin) and Petr Tenkrat (sprained right ankle) returning from injuries.
But the Bruins, with their defense rebuilt with reinforcements, allowed a season-high 55 shots to pepper their shellshocked goalie, who responded with arguably his finest game of the season. But even Tim Thomas didn't have an answer for Scottie Upshall's winning goal with 9.9 ticks remaining in overtime, a strike that gave the Flyers a 4-3 victory before 12,294 at TD Banknorth Garden.
Upshall slipped behind Andrew Ference, took a long pass from Sami Kapanen, and barreled toward Thomas, flipping a backhander into the net.
"You have to play hard to win," said Mark Mowers, who recorded the first two-goal game of his career. "We didn't play hard. We didn't play smart. And we didn't win."
The run-and-gun Flyers, playing for pride and roster spots for 2007-08, were practically waved into the offensive zone by the Boston defense. They gunned quality attempts at Thomas (51 saves), including 21 shots in a two-goal second period. On his own, top-line center Jeff Carter had 12 shots, seven in the second period, while linemates Upshall (six shots) and Simon Gagne (four shots) also applied pressure on the Boston cage.
At 16:51 of the second period, defenseman Denis Gauthier stapled Marc Savard into the boards, leaving Boston's leading scorer stunned. Not a single Bruin retaliated against Gauthier, who was tagged with a boarding penalty.
"I'm talking about battles in front of the net," said coach Dave Lewis, fuming after the loss. "We've got some big defensemen. Some strong defensemen. I'm talking about guys finishing checks on a regular basis, guys competing at a higher level in front of our net, in the corners, in our zone, and doing the right things. That's a mind-set. I don't think our mind-set was correct for tonight's game."
The Bruins got off to a blazing start. On his first goal, Mowers took a clever pass through the neutral zone from Wideman and put a top-shelf shot past goalie Martin Biron (34 saves). Mowers doubled the lead at 8:09, with Jeremy Reich recording his first assist as a Bruin.
But the Bruins failed to extend down-low coverage to Joni Pitkanen, who took a pass from forward Mike York and put a close-range shot past Thomas at 10:39 of the first period.
In the second period, R.J. Umberger found an opening in the slot on the power play. Defenseman Derian Hatcher spotted an unmarked Umberger in front, and he had no trouble beating Thomas at 4:53.
The Flyers took the lead at 11:33 when Kapanen and fellow penalty-killer Mike Richards broke free for an odd-man rush. They played give-and-go and Richards tapped a close-range shot into the net. It was the 15th shorthanded goal the Bruins have allowed this season, the most in the league.
"We got outworked in certain areas," said Lewis. "We got outchanced. I want us to be harder to play against in our zone. They controlled a lot of the territorial play. We have to get in players' faces more and make it harder for them to come to our net, harder for them to attack us."
Zdeno Chara tied the score in the second period when he netted a five-on-three goal at 12:36. The Bruins had several good looks in the third period, but could not solve Biron, leading to Upshall's goal in overtime, the latest blow to Boston's fading playoff hopes.
"We do not deserve a point," said Lewis. "Tim Thomas and Mark Mowers were the reasons why we got a point."