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On hockey

Standing tall, sitting pretty

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / May 3, 2011

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PHILADELPHIA — The pass came across silky smooth, without a flaw, and David Krejci had his mind made up well before the puck arrived at his spot above the left-wing circle. He was shooting. No doubt about it.

“Perfectly flat,’’ he said, sizing up Nathan Horton’s polished relay.

And what does such a pass deserve? Perfect placement. Krejci pulled back and let it rip, his one-time slapper sailing high into the net, to goalie Brian Boucher’s stick side, and the roar from New England nearly could be heard rumbling down Broad Street and cascading over the crushed, conquered Flyers.

“I wanted to shoot it and shoot it up high,’’ said Krejci, his blast handing the Bruins a 3-2 win over the Flyers at 14:00 of overtime, and boosting Boston to a 2-love lead in the best-of-seven playoff series. “It worked.’’

On a night when the Bruins nearly were chased out of the building in the third period — the Flyers posting a massive 22-7 shot differential — Krejci won it with what was only Boston’s 12th shot over the final 34 minutes of the night. Milan Lucic had motored to the front of the net, and Horton zipped his pass on a slight diagonal across the slot, with exhausted Flyers defensemen Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen with little to offer as resistance.

If not for Tim Thomas (where have we heard that before?), the Bruins would have returned to Causeway Street for Game 3 tomorrow night with the series dead even and still trying to explain once more how they have managed to survive a power play that has been shut out in all nine of their postseason games (0 for 28 and counting). Instead, they are now, once again, huge favorites to make it to the Stanley Cup semis for the first time since 1992.

They were not the better team last night, not by a long shot. The Flyers popped out to a 2-0 lead (their first advantage in the series) in the opening 9:31, only to have the Bruins pull even in a span of under five minutes on strikes by Chris Kelly and Brad Marchand. From the point that Marchand’s delicious wrister from the slot beat Boucher, the Flyers outshot the Bruins by a margin of 46-30. Time and time again, Thomas made key blocks and sharp saves, his defensive corps without the services of Adam McQuaid once the rookie banged head-first into the rear boards at 17:31 of the first.

Krejci won it with his fourth goal of the postseason (equaling his career high), but it was Thomas who allowed it to happen, bought time, save after save. It was, by far, his best game of the postseason, after getting off to a rocky start in the series with Montreal in which he too often yielded long, fat rebounds. In two games here, he kept second chances to a bare minimum, and that was much harder work in Game 2 than it was in the opener. The Flyers were much better at getting at least one forward, often two, to Thomas’s front doorstep, only to have the veteran snuff out their rebound attempts or otherwise get the puck out of harm’s way.

Meanwhile, Boucher, yanked in the second period of Game 1 after yielding five goals, again looked shaky throughout the night. He had to exit for the final 7:26 of the second period when a Johnny Boychuk slapper stung him on the catching hand. On Krejci’s winner, though, he was beaten on a sizzling, well-placed slapper, and he should have made the stop. Good looks are supposed to translate to good stops.

“I saw it,’’ said Boychuk, on the bench when Krejci rocketed home the winner. “I didn’t know if it hit the crossbar or went in. A couple of guys were jumping off the bench and we didn’t know if it went in. We would have looked stupid if it didn’t go in and we’re jumping and celebrating.’’

Play continued for seven seconds after Krejci’s shot went high into the net and then popped out, the red goal light never triggered. With the clock showing 5:52 remaining in the OT, it went to video review.

“I thought it was in,’’ said Krejci. “We had to wait for the ref to look at it.’’

“I saw [Lucic] put his hands in the air so I thought it was in,’’ said Thomas, watching from his crease. “And I saw Boucher’s shoulders shrug.’’

The stunned crowd of 19,962 soon headed out in near silence after the referee’s quick review. For the second year in a row, their team in Orange Crush dropped the first two games of Round 2 to the team in Black and Gold.

Only this time they lost the first two on home ice, and now the Flyers have to make their way to the Hub for Games 3 and 4 tomorrow and Friday.

An impossible task for the Flyers to chip back now? We know from last year that nothing is out of reach, not after the Flyers ran the table after falling behind, 0-3, in the series. But the Bruins now have the psychological cushion of having three of the next four games on their ice, not to mention the added incentive (read: dignity check) not to gift wrap another series for the distant sons of Bobby Clarke.

“We do know, from our last series, a 2-0 lead doesn’t mean a series is over,’’ noted Thomas, referring to the Round 1 series vs. Montreal in which the Bruins overcame an 0-2 start. “One game at time, one period at a time, one shift at a time. I think that’s the right approach.’’

Not to mention last year’s inglorious tumble from a 3-0 lead over the Flyers. No one in the Boston room cares to use that as a reference point for anything. Other than, perhaps, to say they returned the next year to make it right.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com.

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