Savard finishes off the Flyers in overtime
Beautiful game, hockey.
The plugger who replaces the fallen first-line left wing scores the game-opening goal on his first shift with his new linemates.
The netminder who allows his weakest goal of the playoffs in the second period roars back in overtime to turn back two surefire strikes.
The defenseman who sees an opposing forward blow right between him and his partner for the tying third-period goal sets up the overtime winner.
And the center who was too sick to watch the last Bruins-Flyers game on television because of a concussion returns to give his club a 5-4 overtime win in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal before 17,565 fans at TD Garden.
“I’m not surprised,’’ Patrice Bergeron said of Marc Savard’s storybook OT strike. “He’s such a great player. He doesn’t need that many practices anyway.’’
Game 1 of what projects to be a long, nasty, and lunchpail second round against the Flyers was, for the most part, atypical of all things Black and Gold.
The Bruins, who had seen the Sabres score first in five of the six first-round games, netted yesterday’s first two goals. The penalty kill, 19 for 19 against the Sabres, failed twice against the quick-strike Philadelphia power play. Tuukka Rask, who has looked like the latest of Finland’s greatest exports (producing puckstopping cyborgs seems to be the country’s birthright), looked all too human on a second-period Flyers goal. The Bruins, who held two-goal leads on three occasions yesterday, couldn’t keep a 4-2 third-period advantage alive.
“They came back and did a heck of a job battling back,’’ said the Bruins’ Mark Recchi, in the box for a Mike Richards power-play goal in the third. “They didn’t quit.’’
Only 41 seconds into the game, Boston lost Marco Sturm for the afternoon. But at 2:39, Steve Begin, the first of several left wings to replace Sturm, potted the Bruins’ first goal following down-low work by Recchi and Bergeron.
At 11:43 of the second, Miroslav Satan gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead with a power-play goal, the winger in the right spot after Johnny Boychuk’s point blast deflected off Ryan Parent. But the Flyers, with Adam McQuaid serving the first of two second-period penalties, kicked off their rally following a curious sight: a Rask softy.
First, Richards beat David Krejci clean on an offensive-zone faceoff, pulling it back to Kimmo Timonen. Then Timonen walked the puck off the left-side wall and flipped a D-to-D pass to Chris Pronger at the right circle. With no traffic in front, Pronger teed up a sharp-angle one-timer that Rask almost always stops.
Not this time.
Rask, a hair late in moving from right to left, felt the puck whiz by at 15:48 — an alarming feeling for a goalie who had been used to making the extraordinary look routine.
“It was a good shot, to make a goalie move across,’’ Rask said. “But I like to think I could have that.’’
But hockey is a game of mistakes. And it’s also a game where those who have failed can pick themselves right back up again. That was true in overtime, when Rask’s two best saves came at the most appropriate time. After Scott Hartnell, the trailer on an odd-man rush, took a pass and rifled a shot on goal at 2:30 of OT, Rask stood tall to wipe out the winger’s bid.
“I just challenged him,’’ Rask said. “I saw him all the way. I try to read those plays.’’
Later in overtime, after an ill-timed line change opened a breakaway for Dan Carcillo, Rask remained calm, tracked the puck, and smothered the short-range shot at 4:27.
“He came in from the side and made a move across,’’ said Rask (32 saves). “He tried to go 5-hole and it just hit my pad. In OT, you’ve got to make those saves sometimes.’’
Overtime, however, was the last place the Bruins expected to be when they were ahead, 4-2, with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation. But at 12:37, with Recchi serving four minutes (cross-checking, roughing) after tangling with Pronger (roughing), Richards took a Hartnell cross-crease feed and tucked a shot upstairs.
Then after revving up from the top of his own circles, Danny Briere motored through Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick, and jammed home his own rebound at 16:38 to make it 4-4.
“I took it off his stick, it hit his feet, went on his stick, I took it off his stick again, then he gets it off Tuukka’s pad,’’ Wideman said. “We’ve got to take the body there. But when you take the puck off his stick twice, you don’t think he’s going to keep coming back. But we have to make sure one of us takes the body.’’
Like Rask, Wideman would redeem himself in overtime. After Brian Boucher (41 saves) stopped a Zdeno Chara shot and steered the puck into the corner, Wideman didn’t hesitate to barrel down the right-side wall. He won the puck battle and was slashed by James van Riemsdyk to draw a delayed penalty.
“Wides made a nice pinch there and kept it alive,’’ said Savard. “I was just thinking, ‘As soon as this thing lands, I’m shooting it.’ ’’
The next thing Savard knew, the center who once believed his season to be over was watching his slapper pick the top corner at 13:52. With a two-handed pitch, Savard flung his Bauer into the stands in celebration.
That’s what you call a stick salute.