Quick start brought the house down
One good start led to one quick finish for the Flyers last night, the Bruins setting a franchise record for the two fastest goals at the start of a playoff game.
Zdeno Chara opened it with his strike at the 30-second mark. David Krejci followed only 33 seconds later. Two goals in 63 seconds, and the stage was set for a 5-1 breeze of a win that now — for the second time in as many springs — leaves the Bruins but one victory away from reaching the Stanley Cup semifinals.
Startled. Lost. Dumbstruck.
All of that summed up the team from Broad Street, which needed to come here last night, fresh from losing the first two games of the series in Philadelphia, and get themselves pointed toward Bountiville. Instead, in 63 seconds, they were on the express train to Palookaville, looking like anything but contenders.
“Obviously, the start was not good for us,’’ said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, whose club reversed an 0-3 deficit to the Bruins in Round 2 last year and went all the way to the Cup finals. “Not the way we needed to start . . . the start was unacceptable.’’
Which is why Laviolette, once the promising young coaching stud in Boston’s system, signaled for a timeout with the Vault’s sellout crowd of 17,565 in full frenzy. He needed his Flyers to regain composure, but above all he needed to get inside the head of his starting goalie, Brian Boucher. The 34-year-old Boucher skated to the bench — near the same door that would be his exit at the 15:14 mark of the second period — and Laviolette spent nearly the full 30 seconds reassuring Boucher, the former pride of Mount St. Charles, that the two goals were a product of a team-wide collapse, unreadiness.
“I wanted to make sure he stayed clear and kept focused,’’ said Laviolette, underscoring to his goaltender that the rest of the team would reset, shape up around him. “I wanted to make sure his head was on straight.’’
But for the third time in as many games, the Flyers didn’t have nearly enough. They were better than their 7-3 blowout loss in Game 1, but not nearly as good as Game 2 on Monday, when Boston goalie Tim Thomas stole a 3-2 victory with his dazzling collection of saves in the third period and OT.
For the most part, although they improved after the timeout, the Flyers were dead on double-runners, their best players all but invisible, their goaltending too soft, and the safety lock never removed from their emotional trigger.
The 63-second faux pas cost them the game and likely cost them any chance of climbing back into the best-of-seven series. Causeway Street turned into their Casualty Way. Game 4 is here tomorrow night, and though Boucher is by no means the sole reason the Flyers stand 0-3, it’s virtually impossible for Laviolette to start him for a fourth straight game. It’s looking like Sergei Bobrovsky will get the Bobby Sprowl call to arms.
“We got momentum. Those two goals got us going and we stayed with it,’’ noted Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, who assisted on Chara’s 1-0 goal, knocking the puck over to linemate Brad Marchand for a spot-on backhand feed to an oncoming Chara. “We were able to put pressure on them, and we kept going at ’em.’’
During the timeout, Boston coach Claude Julien used Philly’s 30-second breather to explain to his charges this was no time to take a breather.
“We told our players,’’ said Julien, “the next rotation, the next shift, we had to be dominant so the momentum wouldn’t change. You often see teams get an immediate jump after a timeout. So you want to respond in a way that they don’t get an advantage.’’
The Flyers improved, which is to say they didn’t fold, but they were never very good. No sign of their trademark spunk. Little fight. Less touch.
The Bruins employed perhaps their best forecheck of the postseason, helping to keep the puck up ice for protracted stretches, even when those rushes didn’t add up to shots. They also kept the Flyers from mounting much in the way of serious, quality scoring chances. Come the end of the night, sure, the Flyers owned a 38-28 shot advantage, but other than an Andrej Meszaros strike that cut Boston’s lead to 4-1 late in the second period, all they owned was a pile of chipped-and-chilled vulcanized rubber.
From the start, the Bruins dominated at the faceoff dot, and finished the night with a lopsided W-L total of 43-12. Bergeron won 17 of his 19 drops, David Krejci 8 of 8, and Gregory Campbell 11 of 12. Faceoffs speak to possession and Boston’s 78 percent success rate at the dot spoke to the Flyers getting schooled.
The Bruins also finally struck for a power-play goal, their first of the postseason, when Chara drilled in his second of the night during a five-on-three advantage with 1:22 remaining. It ended an embarrassing 0-for-30 drought and left them one game shy of tying the playoff record (10) for most games without a PPG. Both the 1931 Canadiens and the ’42 Maple Leafs went 10 games without a power-play goal. Both clubs also won the Cup.
It’s not over. Not yet. Not officially. The Hub of Hockey learned that last year when a 3-0 lead over the Flyers turned into the Bruins’ greatest nightmare. But this year is different. The Bruins are better. The Flyers are worse. And last night, with 58 minutes and 57 seconds to try to get themselves back in the series, the team from Broad Street just never seemed to buy into the idea of a comeback.