Well, it was fun for awhile. Through two periods of this game, the Bruins had a 4-2 lead and, while they were not dominant, they had played well enough to earn their advantage. And it wasn't in the style of the to-date 2015-16 losses, where the Bruins were blown off the ice after being competitive for 30 minutes or so.
But it was a gut-wrenching loss, and if the game had a turning point, it came when Colin Miller found a streaking David Pastrnak crashing the back door on the left side of the slot, Pastrnak, in behind the Flyers defense, and Pastrnak ripped a shot on net that seemed destined to put the game out of reach.
Only it didn't go in. Somehow, Flyers goaltender Steve Mason keep the puck out. No one's really sure how. Pasta could've shot the puck a little more towards the open side of the net, for sure, but Mason's save was absolutely ridiculous nonetheless. The call on the ice, no goal, stood to up to review.
Mere seconds after play resumed, the other shoe dropped. Kevan Miller, who had been a primary culprit on an earlier Flyers goal, backhanded the puck off his own skate. The puck caromed right to Jakub Voracek who thread a pass between Zdeno Chara and Brett Connolly to an opportunistic Claude Giroux. Giroux potted it past a stunned a Tuukka Rask, and it was 4-3.
This year's losses, up to this point, hadn't involved blowing late leads. This one seemed to take a page from 2014-15 Bruins playbook. Call down one way doesn't go Bruins way? Check. Goal by the other team due to ridiculous defensive incompetency a by player the Bruins are pretending can play on a higher pairing than he actually can? Check. Blowing the lead late? Check.
That last box would be ticked three minutes later, a little over halfway through the third period, when Wayne Simmonds ripped an absolute laser past Rask from the left faceoff dot (notably taking the shot over a rather ill-advised sprawl on the ice by Adam McQuaid, who should've just held his position, what with there already being coverage in the middle).
So now the lead was blown. If you watched the Bruins in 2014-15, you probably already knew what was going to happen. The Bruins played well enough (I'm being generous here, they had about one serious flurry of chances and couldn't put a puck on net to save their lives) to keep the game tied until OT started. Then someone took a penalty and the other team scored and the Bruins and their fans were left holding a single point where there should've been two.
This time, it was a Ryan Spooner penalty in OT that gave the opposing team a chance 4-on-3. For my money, it came on a relatively soft where Michael Del Zotto, intentionally or not, solid Spooner's stick being stuck across his midriff. Regardless, the penalty was called, and it's hard to blame the ref for not swallowing the whistle on something that looks that obvious.
Claude Giroux scored his second of the game of a nice fake-and-feed from Mark Streit, and the shot really could not have been better. Rask did not play well last night, but it's hard to blame him on an absolute howitzer by one of the league's best players. That completed the Flyers comeback, and the Bruins collapse.
Until everything went pear-shaped, this was actually quite entertaining. Heck, if you were a neutral fan who tuned in, you probably had fun, as the game was goal-happy and plenty of weird stuff going on. Zac Rinaldo was ejected at the first of the first, delighting fans of both teams after he injured Sean Couturier. Zdeno Chara and Claude Giroux dueled with sticks at center ice. Chris Kelly scored a short-handed goal by stepping in the way of a Loui Eriksson shot. Steve Mason had to come on for Michal Neuvirth when the latter was injured towards the end of the first (both played pretty well, actually) and we never really got an explanation for what happened. David Pastrnak's ice time was cut for defensive mistakes. The game had all the good stuff and fun, if sometimes silly, chippiness that you expect from Bruins-Flyers.
The Flyers were actually the team that struck first, on a weird rebound goal by Pierre-Eduouard Bellemare where he collected the puck after Rask dropped his initial shot and slid it past Tuukka's left leg at 9:28 of the first. Joonas Kemppainen, who was on Bellemare defensively, should have walled Bellemare away from the puck way better. Rask also should've gloved the initial shot. Neither happened, 1-0.
Exactly four minutes later, Brett Connolly smacked a Patrice Bergeron rebound into an open net, after the latter had been fed by Brad Marchand. It was Connolly's first goal as a Bruin, which had to be a huge lift off his shoulders. Indeed, the shifts they took together had 63-37-14 looking like the Bruins most effective unit at even strength.
The game didn't stay tied for long. After a Kevan Miller breakout pass went right back to the Flyers at neutral ice, Miller then gave up too much space to Sam Gagner as the Flyers forward streaked over the blue line on the left side, and then provided a partial screen on the Gagner wrister that beat Rask. Seriously, it's not like Miller and McQuaid don't have their uses, but it's hard to describe how out of their element they look against opposing teams with good forwards. Anyhow, that was 2-1.
The Bruins league-leading(!) Power Play unit tied it at 2-2 when Patrice Bergeron, whose wife Stephanie had given birth to their first child, Zack, hours earlier, scored his first Dad-Goal by batting the puck out of the air past Flyers starter Michal Neuvirth. Through this point, the Bruins had scored on 8 of Power Play opportunities this season.
Zac Rinaldo, who for the previous five games had been avoiding making a complete ass of himself, made a complete ass of himself at the end of the first period. Raise your hand if you didn't see this one coming. Rinaldo hit Sean Courturier high while the latter was already tied up by Adam McQuaid. Debate the technicalities if you must, but it was absolute garbage no matter whether you want to call it. With the puck already gone, the hit was late. With the player already engaged, there was no need to line him up. Courturier would not return. Some guys deserve their reputation calls.
Once Rinaldo was ejected, the Bruins were also down a man for five minutes to start the second period. Somehow, the Flyers didn't even muster a SOG on the chance. In fact, Kelly scored his aforementioned shorty to make it 3-2 Bruins. To get us back to the point we started in this wrap-up, Jimmy Hayes ripped a bad-angle shot past Steve Mason at 8:29 of the second, and that gave the Bruins the blow-able 4-2 advantage.
- Loui Eriksson and David Krejci both had two Assists on the evening, the latter re-taking his spot with the most points on the NHL
- Zdeno Chara played well again, logging over 26 minutes, an Assist, and finishing in the plusses despite Miller having one of his worst games. One wonders how much longer it'll be before he has a different defensive partner, because the current set-up seems like a waste.
- This was the Flyers first victory at TD Garden since 2013, and it's hard to say they didn't deserve it; if you make a two-goal comeback in the third without one of your top three centers available, I tip my cap to you (while grumbling). The Bruins are still winless at home after four games at TD Garden.
- Tuukka Rask has been both a victim of the Bruins defense, which we all know needs to be better (Trotman, anyone? Maybe?), and isn't playing very well over these six games either. It's fair to point both out. While there have been games where Rask has played well and gotten left with bad-ish SV% thanks to defensive gaffes, I don't think it's incorrect to say Rask is slumping too.
- Not going to speculate on a Rinaldo suspension, save to say that he's a repeat offender and nothing would shock me.
- Colin Miller and Torey Krug looked solid tonight, which was encouraging. Both of them are still playing other their heads as well, but the former's passing was pretty sharp and the latter handled the defensive end surprisingly well.