Flyers unable to prevent nightmare scenario
PHILADELPHIA — From the first puck drop last night, the Flyers played like a team fearful of falling into a 3-0 hole, pushing the pace and taking chances whenever possible. Through the opening shifts everything was falling their way, as their aggressive play led to a 2-on-1 and an early lead on an Arron Asham goal. But before long the Bruins settled down, while the Flyers kept clawing for chances that didn’t materialize, swinging the game in Boston’s favor and putting Philadelphia deeper toward that 3-0 hole.
Each time a Bruin touched the puck in the first period an orange sweater came hurtling in his direction, eager to enforce the Flyers’ physical will. If the game were scored strictly by body count, Philadelphia would have easily slipped by with a two-man advantage after David Krejci and Adam McQuaid were both sidelined after first-period injuries.
But the bruising style quickly bit back against the Flyers when captain Mike Richards was caught at center-ice chasing the knockout hit on Krejci and letting the puck get by, allowing the Bruins to gain a 2-1 lead. Richards has made a habit of hunting for opposing bodies in open ice this postseason, often failing to play the puck in the process. In this case, Krejci managed to move it forward, where it eventually landed on Miroslav Satan’s stick. Agitating winger Daniel Carcillo tripped over Daniel Paille on the backcheck, leaving Satan to attack the net. A quick back-to-forehand move left Brian Boucher sprawling and put Philadelphia behind and unable to climb back.
“You can’t control the fact that Danny Carcillo on the backcheck got taken out of the play by bodies going to the ice,’’ said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. “I don’t think there’s a defense for that.’’
Through two periods the heightened tempo gave Philadelphia a 27-17 shots advantage that grew to 35-20 at game’s end. Despite that distinct advantage, control still rested squarely with Boston. The Bruins negated Philadelphia’s efforts by calmly holding ground in the defensive zone and throwing everything they had in front of shot attempts. The banged-up group of defenders, which took another hit with McQuaid’s injury on a collision behind his own net, stood tall in front of an onslaught of rubber bullets, blocking 21 shots in the 4-1 victory.
With the Bruins clogging center ice and neutralizing Philadelphia’s efforts, the Flyers’ offense broke down.
“The emotion was there but we might have been not executing our passes to get through the trap,’’ said Richards. “When we did I don’t think we were trying to do the right things in the offensive zone. We were rushing plays and not making the right ones.’’
By the third period the Flyers were scrambling to score, camping out by the pipes but still unable to fit anything past Tuukka Rask, who finished with 34 saves, many of them with his pads clinging tight to either post. Philadelphia’s composed effort from the game’s opening blows turned to “individualistic’’ play, according to Chris Pronger.
The Bruins, meanwhile, skipped attempting the home-run pass, instead settling for puck possession and allowing scoring opportunities to develop naturally. Mark Recchi extended the lead to 3-1 on a third-period power play, rebounding Zdeno Chara’s point shot to put Boston in firm control. Early struggles to break through the Bruins’ neutral zone defense only worsened for the Flyers once Boston took the two-goal lead.
“They didn’t need any offense, so they had no reason to open up,’’ said Laviolette. “They really had the opportunity to hunker down and not let us through and they did a good job of it.’’
The Flyers began the game on the right track toward avoiding the desperation they now feel. The energy bouncing around the bench after Asham’s goal could have helped bring Philadelphia back into the series. But faced with a sea of black and gold everywhere they looked, the Flyers’ offense crumbled and the team’s worst fears came true in the form of a 3-0 series deficit.