Bruins have nothing; Flyers alive, kicking
By the end of last night’s stink bomb, barely a quarter of TD Garden was populated. When your team has a chance to shake its opponents’ hands goodbye and mails in its worst postseason performance, disgusted mass exodus is the expected consequence.
Forty years to the day when Bobby Orr flew, the Bruins never got off the ground. The Flyers struck first, and even when Brian Boucher, one of the postseason’s sharpest goalies, departed in the second period because of what appeared to be a left knee injury, the Bruins proceeded to let in three more goals to drop a 4-0 decision that was far worse than the final score.
“I thought it was a really big surprise,’’ said Tuukka Rask of the flat-line effort. “We felt pretty good in ourselves before the game. They got the first goal again, then things started to go in the wrong direction. That’s sometimes what happens in the playoffs when a game goes like this. It’s just one game. Wins and losses are the only things that matter.’’
With all the momentum of an 18-wheeler parked in rush-hour Mass. Pike traffic, the Bruins will tiptoe into the Wachovia Center for tomorrow’s Game 6, fearful of what was once a 3-0 series laugher returning to Boston for a winner-take-all match Friday.
The Bruins will not acknowledge it, but it appears, based on last night’s result, they didn’t take the Flyers seriously enough. Even after a 5-4 overtime loss in Game 4, the Bruins were returning to home ice, where they had a 5-0 postseason record. Last night, they were the farthest thing from perfect against a club that fought and scrapped and clawed through the shootout of the regular-season finale to advance to the playoffs.
“You never expect a team, no matter what position they’re in, to roll over and die,’’ Milan Lucic said. “They haven’t done that. We can’t have too many passengers and too many guys waiting for things to happen. Everyone has to be on board and take the play to them.’’
For the Bruins, missing two top-six forwards in David Krejci and Marco Sturm, they had too few scoring chances. Too many penalties (eight power plays for Philly). Too few puck battles in the winning category.
Too little heart.
“Tonight, shots were definitely down from previous games,’’ said coach Claude Julien, whose team put only 23 combined pucks on Boucher and Michael Leighton. “A lot of that was probably from our lack of competitiveness. I thought we lost battles from start to finish. They were the hungrier team tonight. When that happens, you get those kinds of results.’’
The warning signs were blinking from the start, when the Bruins asked Rask (27 saves) to perform his Superman imitation during Philly’s early barrage. Before two minutes had ticked off the clock, Rask had to make a show-stopping right-to-left save to snuff out a Claude Giroux chance following a two-on-one rush. Later in the first, Rask kicked out a point-blank chance by Simon Gagne, who somehow had slipped behind the Boston penalty killers (Miroslav Satan was in the box for tripping). During the same rush, Rask had to brick up the back door to keep Giroux from tucking one in.
By the time the smoke cleared, the Flyers should have had a four-goal lead instead of just a 1-0 advantage (Ville Leino poked home the rebound of a Chris Pronger blast at 6:41 of the first).
“We have a great goalie back there,’’ Marc Savard said. “Now they’re getting three whacks in a row back there. He’s doing his best for us. We’re letting him down up front.’’
But the Bruins’ worst transgressions occurred in the second period following Boucher’s exit at 4:35. Boucher crumbled under the weight of Satan and teammate Ryan Parent, landing squarely on his left leg during a crease pileup. As Boucher skated off, placing zero weight on his left leg, in came Leighton, who hadn’t played since March 16 and hadn’t even dressed in the playoffs (Johan Backlund had been the No. 2 goalie).
Just 34 seconds after Leighton replaced Boucher, the ice-cold netminder had to face a power play when Danny Briere was called for cross-checking Zdeno Chara. The result: not a single shot on Leighton.
At one point late in the third, when the game was out of hand, the question was whether to put in Tim Thomas and give Rask a rest. But dressing Thomas up front wouldn’t have been a downgrade from the 12 forwards who seemed to play with overcooked noodles instead of one-piece composites.
“That was a huge disappointment,’’ said Savard of not getting enough pucks on Leighton. “Especially when he comes in what, 12 minutes left [in the second]? And we get one or two shots on him that period? That’s just terrible.’’
At the other end, a hanging-on-the-clothesline Rask, following heavy cycling by the Flyers, saw Scott Hartnell tap home the rebound of a Briere shot at 11:16 of the second.
At 17:53, with Steve Begin in the box for boarding Giroux, Gagne tapped in a close-range shot to make it 3-0. By 6:48 of the third, when Gagne netted his second strike, the boos were in full song.
“Good lesson for us,’’ said Mark Recchi. “They came in, they slapped us in the face. Now we have to go there and realize this is a series now.’’