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Overtime has really paid off

Bruins are money when it counts

Tim Thomas (top) knocked the puck away from Brian Gionta in overtime of Game 7 against Montreal, and the Bruins goaltender denied Kris Versteeg and the Flyers in OT Monday. Tim Thomas (top) knocked the puck away from Brian Gionta in overtime of Game 7 against Montreal, and the Bruins goaltender denied Kris Versteeg and the Flyers in OT Monday. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / May 4, 2011

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During the regular season, the Bruins played 14 games that required more than 60 minutes to determine an outcome. Of those 14, the Bruins won in overtime — the five-minute frame prior to the shootout — just once.

Already, they have quadrupled that number in the playoffs.

“The biggest thing in overtime is that, no doubt, you’re always going to tell your players, ‘Play to win. Don’t sit back,’ ’’ said coach Claude Julien yesterday. “The main thing is trying to make sure you minimize those mistakes that can be costly. It doesn’t take much.’’

Overtime was once a puzzle for the Bruins. The only time this season they won in overtime was Dec. 7, when they scored a 3-2 win over Buffalo. Dennis Seidenberg blasted a puck that skimmed off Mark Recchi and beat Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller. In five other OTs, the Bruins shot blanks. In the shootout, they went 2-6.

But in the postseason, the Bruins have had zero trouble closing out opponents in extra time.

Tim Thomas has turned back all 32 shots he has seen in overtime. Thomas has been assisted by defensemen like Seidenberg, who led the Bruins in ice time in three of the four extra-time games, including a 38:15 marathon in the 2-1 double-overtime win over Montreal in Game 5 of the first round.

Up front, Nathan Horton has led the charge with two overtime goals. Michael Ryder and David Krejci have the other two.

“We have a pretty good record,’’ said Horton. “It’s always fun when you do go into overtime. Things can go either way. You want to get it as quick as possible.

“Obviously, Timmy made some unbelievable saves, not just in overtime, but really kept us in the game. That gives us a chance to win. That’s basically what happened [Monday] night. He stole the game for us. There were some good opportunities by them to win. He was there. That’s kind of how we got it.’’

Three times in the first round, the Bruins and Canadiens failed to solve their differences in regulation. All three times, including Game 7, the Bruins scored the goals that meant the most. Ryder was the difference-maker in Game 4. In Games 5 and 7, Horton was the hero.

In Monday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Flyers, Horton was involved again. He started the play on the bench. While linemates Krejci and Milan Lucic were already on the ice, Horton was waiting for Recchi to make the change.

Flyers goalie Brian Boucher settled the puck, then handed it off to defenseman Braydon Coburn. As Coburn considered his options, he spotted Lucic revving up his wheels to initiate the forecheck. Perhaps under pressure from Lucic, Coburn rimmed the puck behind the net and around the boards for Kimmo Timonen.

Just as Coburn released the rim, Recchi came off and Horton vaulted over the boards. Horton would be in perfect position to play the puck if Timonen couldn’t settle the rim.

“I was just standing on the wall,’’ Horton recalled. “I just hoped it would get through.’’

Horton’s wish came true. From his viewpoint, Horton saw that Timonen couldn’t pull the puck off the wall.

“It didn’t take a hop,’’ Horton said. “He just missed it. It came right to me. I had a little bit of time.’’

Horton settled the puck, then saw Krejci open in the slot, his stick loaded and ready to fire. Horton connected with his pass. Krejci buried his shot. And even though the red lamp never lit and neither referee signaled a goal, both Horton and Lucic raised their arms in celebration. Moments later, video replay confirmed that Krejci’s blast had beaten Boucher.

Just like that, the Bruins had won their fourth overtime game of the playoffs. They turned a defensive-zone mistake into the worst result for the Flyers.

“It was a rim from their defenseman to the other one that he wasn’t capable of getting,’’ said Julien. “We pounced on that puck and took advantage of it.

“So it’s about those kinds of little mistakes sometimes, where it seems like it’s not going to turn into much. Whether it’s that, a line change — especially in first overtime, you’ve got those long changes you have to be careful with.

“It’s about really focusing on making sure we’re sharp when it comes to those kinds of things. And play to win.’’

The Flyers believed they deserved a better fate in Game 2. They hammered Thomas with 54 shots. Eight flew off the stick of James van Riemsdyk, who was a threat to score on every shift. Van Riemsdyk was involved in a last-ditch sequence in regulation. After Mike Richards won a draw, van Riemsdyk whipped a close-range shot that Thomas booted out. Danny Briere was there for the rebound, but the puck hopped over his stick.

“Almost had a heart attack,’’ said Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk.

Tonight at TD Garden, the Flyers will be even more desperate. Richards, the personification of the mean-and-nasty Flyer brand, will be on the hunt. Van Riemsdyk, who scored both Philadelphia goals Monday, expects to be sniffing for more chances. Briere and Claude Giroux are always dangerous. And as the Bruins proved to the Canadiens in the previous round, 2-0 series leads can mean nothing.

“I’m not looking so much at where we are in the series,’’ Julien said, “more than what’s at stake in [tonight’s] game — how well we have to play. The rest will take care of itself. If we play well, we’ll be up by another game.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in that dressing room, including coaching staff and players, that are certainly sitting comfortably right now. We know this is going to be a tough task.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto

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