Recchi provides the first breathing room
PHILADELPHIA — There was no underestimating the importance of Mark Recchi’s power-play goal in the third period of the Bruins’ 4-1 victory last night against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“That was huge, for sure,’’ said Patrice Bergeron, who punctuated the Game 3 triumph with his empty-netter at 18:08. “In the first two periods, I thought they came out really strong. They had so many good chances but Tuukka [Rask] was unbelievable for us and he made some huge saves. We told ourselves after the second that we needed a huge effort and that goal was obviously huge because it gave us a two-goal lead, but Philly kept coming, and we just had to stay strong.’’
Although the Bruins had to contend with a manpower shortage after center David Krejci and defenseman Adam McQuaid went down in the first period, Bergeron’s empty-netter allowed the Black and Gold to finally exhale.
“Maybe after Bergy scored, everybody saw the light at the end of the tunnel,’’ said Blake Wheeler, whose first career playoff goal at 4:11 of the first period answered Arron Asham’s score at 2:32.
But Recchi’s fourth goal of the playoffs at 2:30 of the third, for a 3-1 lead, enabled the Bruins to enjoy some breathing room after sweating out a pair of one-goal thrillers in Games 1 and 2 in Boston. More important, it was the Bruins’ first power-play tally in their last seven chances.
“Obviously, it was an important one, too,’’ Recchi said. “I mean, it gives you a two-goal cushion, in their building. Wheeler made a great play by screening in front of the net and the puck just bounced to me and I was able to whack it in.’’
Just as important, Recchi pointed out, was Boston’s penalty killing, which wiped out a pair of delay-of-game penalties against Johnny Boychuk at 4:51 and Steve Begin at 14:10 that gave the Flyers two scoring opportunities in the third. “I think special teams were important tonight,’’ he said.
Philadelphia’s inability to wipe out Asham’s tripping penalty 50 seconds into the third period proved costly when Recchi, camped out at the right post, whacked home Zdeno Chara’s slapper that bounced off Wheeler in front of the net. When the puck came to his stick, Recchi deposited it past Flyers goalie Brian Boucher.
“You know, that thing, I don’t even know where it came out of; it was just pinballing in there a little bit,’’ said Wheeler, when asked if Chara’s shot ricocheted off his body or his stick. “I tried to take a whack at it, but the goalie never saw it. It was great to see it kind of bounce our way.’’
Recchi’s goal not only started the mass exodus of the Wachovia Center crowd of 19,688, it also helped the Bruins draw one win closer to reaching the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1992.
“I don’t know if I can talk about what it did to their bench,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “I think it was important for us at that stage to make sure that we didn’t let them back in and make sure that we didn’t give them that next goal.’’
Even though they were outshot in the third period, 8-3, the Bruins never allowed the Flyers to climb back into it, leaving Philly staring at a 3-0 deficit and a do-or-die scenario in Game 4 tomorrow night.
“We really weren’t generating many chances in the third because we didn’t want to expose ourselves defensively too much,’’ Wheeler said. “So the power play was a perfect opportunity to generate some chances. Like I said, I wasn’t counting the shots, but we couldn’t have had too many in the third, and to get them to go in was just huge.
“That’s what kind of breaks the back of the other team.’’