This time, Thomas gives Flyers plenty of nothing
PHILADELPHIA — Last night, the Bruins’ first match against the Flyers since you-know-what happened in last season’s playoffs was not about retribution. There could never be a fitting push-back for losing a 3-0 series lead and a 3-0 Game 7 advantage.
Besides, the Bruins had more important issues to address. Such as finding their game again.
The Bruins, winners of only one of their last five outings, responded by posting a 3-0 victory over the Flyers before 19,684 at the
“The main thing,’’ said Milan Lucic, who was chirped constantly by Philadelphia tough guy Jody Shelley, “was that it was a good team effort to get ourselves back on track.
“We did a great job sticking up for one another. We had team toughness. Everyone did their role. That was a big part of us winning.
“Even though we were up, 2-0, [Shawn Thornton] did a great job stepping in and having a spirited fight [against Shelley].’’
More than any other player, the game belonged to Thomas. On the game’s first rush, the Flyers sent a flurry of close-range shots on goal. Thomas turned aside each one.
“He’s done it all year,’’ said Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette. “Someone asked me if it surprises me. The answer is no. He’s done this.
“He had an up-and-down year last year. But prior to that, he was solid, got the Vezina Trophy, and now he’s back to that point. He’s playing very well for them.
“We couldn’t slide anything by him. We did have some good opportunities, but he made big saves when he needed to.’’
For Thomas, last night was especially engaging because he didn’t have an opportunity to face the Flyers in the playoffs. To earn his fifth shutout of the year, he had to do a little bit of everything. He battled through traffic — the Flyers are infamous for crashing the crease — to find pucks.
Thomas was perfect moving from side to side, as he showed late in the second period when he pushed from right to left to stuff Andreas Nodl’s one-timer.
He even had to stare down a penalty shot.
At 17:20 of the second, with the Bruins up, 2-0, Scott Hartnell had just stepped out of the penalty box and slipped behind Andrew Ference, forcing the defenseman to chop him down to wipe out his scoring chance.
On the penalty shot, Thomas calmed down and waited for Hartnell to make the first move. As Hartnell saw that he was running out of room, he flipped a backhander on goal that Thomas easily stopped.
“I just didn’t want to overthink it and think about what he might do,’’ Thomas said. “He [earlier] took a shot low blocker. At one point, I started to think, ‘Is he going to go back there?’ Then I was like, ‘No.’ I just tried to empty my mind and just react.’’
For the first time in six games, the Bruins scored the first goal. With Nikolai Zherdev serving a tripping penalty, David Krejci entered the offensive zone with speed, then dished to a speeding Lucic. The left wing dangled through Sean O’Donnell and shot a backhander that Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (29 saves) kicked out.
The puck landed in the crease and O’Donnell tried to wing it out of the zone. But Patrice Bergeron, playing the point on the No. 1 unit, picked off the clearing bid, then threaded a shot through Bobrovsky before the goalie could square himself against the shot at 5:40 of the first.
The Bruins doubled their lead in the second. Michael Ryder went one-on-one against O’Donnell on the left wing. Ryder faked a shot, then tucked a backhand pass around O’Donnell to a streaking Tyler Seguin, who had sprinted past a backchecking Hartnell.
In one motion, Seguin received Ryder’s pass and unloaded a top-shelf strike over Bobrovsky at 15:12. Entering last night, Seguin had scored only one goal in the last 14 games.
“I thought he played probably one of his better games,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “He forechecked, skated well, and scored that big goal. He’s up to five goals.
“When you look at where we are in the season at this stage, he could be a 20-goal scorer in his first year. You can’t be disappointed with him at all. I think as we move forward here and he keeps getting better the way he is, he’s going to get more and more ice time.’’
It was only one win. And certainly not a victory that changes anything about how the Flyers cut last season short for the Bruins. But for a downtrodden team searching for answers, the Bruins were only too happy to claim last night’s result.