By Joe Haggerty
PHILADELPHIA The Bruins were an horrendous overtime and shootout team during the regular season, but its amazing what happens in the playoffs when the extra session moves from four-on-four to five-on-five play.
The Bruins have now won four overtime games during their current playoff run, and are showing the kind of mettle, poise and willingness to win that many accused them of lacking after last years postseason collapse to the Flyers.
The overtime game-winner by Michael Ryder kicked things off at the Bell Centre in Game 4 of the first round, and Nathan Horton scored the other two OT game-winners against the Habs. Then, on Monday night against the Flyers, it was David Krejcis turn with a one-timer from the high slot off a Horton pass a play that means Horton, the playoff newbie, now has had a hand in three of Bostons four OT winners during the postseason.
The Bs were 0-5 in games decided in the overtime session during the regular season, and were 1-6 in shootouts during the season, with rookie Tyler Seguin as their only legitimate shootout weapon. But their 4-0 overtime record thus far in the playoffs is building a growing belief that the Black and Gold will simply find a way to win when they get to that point.
When you get the first couple of overtime wins, it helps, said Mark Recchi. We know what to do and we know how to play . . .
Were in our little bubble right now and thats where our focus is. Whatever is going on on the outside is stuff were not paying attention to. We all believe in each other and we all trust in each other, and weve worked really hard to get to this point. Weve worked at hard at believing and trusting each other and weve been rewarded because of it. A lot of people doubted we could come back from being down 2-0 to Montreal, but we always believed that we could. And we did it.
One of the biggest reasons for the overtime dominance, aside from Bostons real strength playing five-on-five: the goaltending from Tim Thomas.
Were obviously resilient. In a win like tonight we were outplayed in the latter portion of the game, said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. We looked tired, but all of the guys focused when they were tired. Four overtime wins isnt an accident. I know theres some luck involved, but theres also a lot of poise and composure.
Thomas is a perfect 8-0-0 against the Flyers in Philadelphia and now holds a 12-2-2 career mark against the Broad Street Bullies.
The Flyers hadn't lost a Game 2 at home since 2001-02, when they were beaten by Ottawa.
Patrice Bergeron notched an assist on Brad Marchand's first-period goal with a great individual shift that included physically overpowering Scott Hartnell for a loose puck in front of the Boston net and then starting the break, eventually leading to Marchand's score. The assist leaves Bergeron with 11 points (2 goals, 9 assists) in nine playoff games this season, and a legit chance at a Conn Smythe level award if he and the Bruins can continue their postseason roll.
After Monday night's loss, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was doing everything he could to take pressure off his team, which is sitting in an 0-2 hole and facing two games at TD Garden. The Philly coach said the pressure is squarely on the Bruins heading into their home games, and he all but guaranteed a Philadelphia victory in Game 3.
"I think we're going to go into Boston, we're going to play a strong hockey game and we're going to win the game, said Laviolette, a Massachusetts native who is a former Bruins assistant and one-time head coach of the Providence Bruins.
The Flyers made their fifth in-game goaltending change in nine playoff games, though this one was due to injury. Laviolette pulled Brian Boucher when it appeared hed hurt his right hand on a Johnny Boychuk shot. But Boucher returned to action despite Sergei Bobrovskys solid play in the second period.
Being a relief goaltender certainly has a bit more activity to it when youre cashing NHL checks with a team like the Flyers.
The juiced-up Philly crowd was into the game from the opening puck drop, and got whipped up into a patriotic frenzy with the pregame rendition of "God Bless America," live by Lauren Hart sung in tandem with a video of the late Kate Smith. Flyers fans were decked out in orange T-shirts and chanting "U-S-A! U-S-A!" after lineups were introduced.
The chanting and reverence continued after Hart had completed her nightly song, displaying the national pride that swelled after news that Osama bin Laden had been killed on Sunday.
The Flyers' James Van Riemsdyk, an American native, finished with a pair of goals along with a couple of very near misses and said that the backdrop of a spirited, patriotic crowd was everything he could have hoped for.
"That was pretty cool, as an American," van Riemsdyk said. "And the fans are pretty passionate about sports and our country. That was pretty cool to be a part of."
The Flyers set a team record for shots in a period in a home playoff game with 22 in the third. The overall record is 28 set in 1997 against Pittsburgh.