Causes for concern were in obvious abundance for the Bruins tonight in their 4-0 whitewashing at the hands of the pesky and resilient Philadelphia Flyers. But the current state of this team as it has watched a three-games-to-none advantage get whittled down to a perilous 3-2 lead heading to Philadelphia Wednesday might be best summed up by the following:
Two players who stood out the most for Philadelphia in Game 5 — and perhaps shifted the momentum of this matchup — were inactive the last time the Bruins won a game in this series.
One might have figured a week ago that Simon Gagne, the Flyers’ gifted but ailing forward, could eventually become a factor. But Michael Leighton? Suffice to say the contributions of a goalie who missed the past eight weeks with an injury were a surprise to those on both benches — he wasn’t even listed on the Flyers’ pregame roster.
Gagne, who was sidelined with a broken right big toe in Game 4 of the Flyers’ first round victory over the New Jersey Devils, missed the first three games of this series and was not expected to play, let alone be a factor, so soon.
But taking the ice despite having two screws inserted in his foot to aid the healing process, he has officially become a Bruins tormentor, first scoring the winning goal in overtime in Game 4, then potting a pair tonight, including a breakaway in the third period in which he blew past Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman.
Chances are he looks perfectly healthy from Tuukka Rask’s perspective.
While the Bruins’ young goalie was solid enough tonight — he made 27 saves on 31 shots and didn’t receive a whole lot of help from his lethargic defense — Leighton, who entered at the 4:35 mark of the second period after starter Brian Boucher suffered a knee injury while he was bent in an awkward direction during a scramble in front of the net, was the goaltending story of the game.
Leighton, who hadn’t played since suffering a high ankle sprain March 16 against Nashville, made 14 saves, though Boucher (9 saves) was credited with the victory.
While Leighton was more steady than spectacular — the Bruins failed to generate more than sporadic legitimate chances, and the specter of playmaker David Krejci’s season-ending wrist injury in Game 3 is now hovering over this series — he did get the job done.
And the Bruins didn’t. The hockey adage is that the fourth game is always the toughest to win in a playoff series, and the Flyers did play like a desperate team from the first drop of the puck tonight. Ville Leino — a childhood friend of Rask — got the Flyers on the board at 6:41 of the first period.
The Flyers made it 2-0 on perpetual pest Scott Hartnell’s goal — his first of the postseason — in the second period, and Gagne’s put the finishing touches on Philadelphia’s victory with a power-play goal late in the second and his breakaway in the third. The shell-shocked crowd booed the Bruins off the ice after the second period and again during the anticlimactic final few seconds.
With the win, the Flyers ended a seven-game road playoff losing streak to the Bruins dating back to Game 3 of the 1977 Stanley Cup semifinals, and it was the Bruins’ first home loss of the postseason. Should Philadelphia knot the series on their home ice Wednesday, Game 7 would be in Boston on Friday.
The Bruins have two more shots to advance to the conference finals for the first time since 1992 — and to avoid allowing Philadelphia to join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders as the only NHL teams to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-7 series.