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Bruins 4, Flyers 3

Bruins flying high after latest victory

Bruins bruiser Milan Lucic has Flyers goalie Antero Niittymaki down and out as he celebrates one of his two goals. Bruins bruiser Milan Lucic has Flyers goalie Antero Niittymaki down and out as he celebrates one of his two goals. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / March 30, 2009
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PHILADELPHIA - Early in last night's second period, the Bruins had a 3-1 lead.

But then at 4:33 of the second, Blake Wheeler was busted for hooking when he corralled forward Joffrey Lupul. Eight seconds later, Dennis Wideman tugged down ex-Bruin Mike Knuble behind the Boston net and was sent off for holding, giving the Flyers 1:52 of five-on-three hockey. For the first 30 seconds of the penalty kill, Zdeno Chara manned the net-front area and kept the Flyers from getting a good look. But even 6-foot-9-inch strongmen need a breather.

"He battled really hard for the first 30 seconds," said goalie Tim Thomas. "I was thinking to myself, 'He's worked so hard. I've got to find some way to help him out.' You know he's going to get tired. You can't battle with three guys on your back for 40 seconds and not get tired."

Somehow, Philly captain Mike Richards cranked a point shot that picked its way through Stephane Yelle, Aaron Ward, and Mark Stuart and landed on Thomas. The rebound glanced off Thomas and on to the stick of winger Scott Hartnell, who was staring down an empty net, hoping to make it a 3-2 score.

Thomas wasn't about to let that happen. He exploded to his left and threw himself in front of the puck. Hartnell's shot arrived with such muscle that it knocked Thomas's mask off, forcing play to stop at 6:19 - six seconds before the Bruins killed off the five-on-three.

"Richards's shot kind of came through a screen, and I didn't know if it was going to get tipped too, so it's hard to control the rebound when it's like that," Thomas said. "Then when it went to Hartnell, I was thinking to myself, 'Gotta find some way to save this.' We'd worked so hard. I wanted to let the guys who killed the five-on-three get rewarded for it."

By keeping the kitchen-sink-is-coming Flyers off the scoreboard, Thomas (45 saves) prevented Philadelphia from getting the spark it needed. The Bruins took a 3-2 lead into the third period, stretched it two goals when the ageless Mark Recchi potted his 20th strike, then held off the hard-charging Flyers (a score by Simon Gagne with 1:12 remaining in regulation) to claim a 4-3 victory before 19,715 at the Wachovia Center.

"We let them score on that one, it's probably a different hockey game," coach Claude Julien said. "Our guys did a great job of killing almost two minutes of five-on-three. [The Flyers] have been pretty successful in that area. They've got the skill to score. Our guys did a great job. Timmy made the saves when we had to. It was a good kill for us."

After falling behind at 4:56 of the opening frame when Claude Giroux tapped home a close-range shot, the Bruins responded with three straight first-period strikes. At 10:39, after driving hard to the far post, Milan Lucic took a feed from Michael Ryder and tapped a shot past goalie Antero Niittymaki (27 saves) for only his second goal in the last 18 games. The Bruins took the lead during a 52-second two-man advantage when David Krejci spotted Dennis Wideman open at the top of the power-play formation. Wideman fired a point shot past Niittymaki at 13:55. Lucic connected at 17:54, again charging to the far post and cashing in a Krejci pass.

"Those are goals that I need to score - driving to the net," said Lucic. "I've got to give my linemates credit there. They did a good job with chips on the walls and finding me going to the net. I think all around, things went well for me tonight."

The two-goal pad was enough for Thomas, under siege in the second (16 shots). There was the scoreless five-on-three. Later in the second, Thomas had to pull out the acrobatics to make three close-range stops on Knuble. It took some nifty stickwork by Richards, who was posting up on Chara, to deflect a point shot by Ryan Parent past Thomas at 17:49 to make it a 3-2 score. But Thomas shook off the goal and stood his ground in the final minute to fend off defenseman Braydon Coburn's drive to the net.

In the third, Recchi popped home the winning goal at 4:21. The play started when Chuck Kobasew threw a puck on goal that Niittymaki stopped. But the rebound dribbled out to Recchi, who muscled past Coburn and lifted the puck over Niittymaki. In the final minute, after the Flyers made it a one-goal game, Chara helped kill time with a heads-up floater that landed just short of the goal line. A second clearing attempt by Chara resulted in an icing with 0.2 seconds remaining, but it was too little time for the Flyers to work with.

"They were throwing everything at the net," Julien said. "There were times when [Thomas] had to make the big saves and he made them. He was good tonight."

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