The Boston Bruins came into this game with a four-point lead over the Philadelphia Flyers for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, tied with the New Jersey Devils at 47 points. They left Wells Fargo Center Wednesday night with a smaller margin for error, giving two points to the streaking Flyers who have cut the gap in half.
The start of the game lived up to the Rivalry Night branding for once, as the Bruins and Flyers came out of the gates guns-blazing. With a handful of stoppages in the opening period, both squads had chances back and forth. Loui Eriksson, Matt Beleskey, and Patrice Bergeron all were able to get off one-time chances, and Max Talbot crashed the net and missed just wide on a backhand tip.
The teams also traded some physicality. The Flyers edged out Boston in the Hit total, none of them bigger than Brayden Schenn’s absolute force of a hit on Torey Krug.
Being a Bruin wanting to retaliate for a solid, clean hit, Kevan Miller took exception to the play of hockey displayed by Schenn, and the two exchanged even blows before Schenn lost his balance.
Philadelphia had opportunities as well, although the majority of their chances missed the net. Shot attempts after the first period were in favor of Philadelphia, despite the Bruins leading in shots on goal. The Flyers even managed just one shot on their powerplay, which looked very slow all night long. They did however take advantage of some puck-watching late in the 1st, as Jakub Voracek found himself surrounded by four Bruins players, yet still was able to swing the puck by Rask.
Boston opened up the 2nd Period and saw their 8-5 shot advantage quickly close as well, with the Flyers controlling the play early on. That was until the Bruins fourth line and third D pairing connected for an unexpectedly gorgeous play. After a dump-in from center ice, the puck got by Steve Mason and Zac Rinaldo before getting picked up by Max Talbot. The former Flyer held the puck, looking off the Flyers’ D, and sent it deep into the slot for a wide open Kevan Miller, who roofed a beauty of a shot by Mason. Game tied, 1-1.
Boston wouldn’t be done just yet. After Evgeny Medvedev comes dangerously close to making a knee-on-knee hit to Dennis Seidenberg, Boston gets their first powerplay of the night. The Bruins would make their standard passes from point to half-wall, before Ryan Spooner rifled one in on Mason who couldn’t handle the rebound, and Loui Eriksson chips it by the Flyer netminder for his 15th of the season, and 8th powerplay goal.
It was also Spooner’s 8th powerplay assist on the year, and 30th overall point. He and Eriksson are showing some pretty good chemistry despite the team’s recent struggles.
After a scary sequence to wrap up the final 90 seconds of the period, the Bruins took a 2-1 lead into the locker room before the start of the 3rd. It was their second-straight game leading by a goal after 40 minutes. And, well. Déjà vu!
The Flyers came out with some hop in their step once again. Still, they missed plenty of nets wide, despite getting great looks and second-chance opportunities. Stay with me, ‘cause there’s a theme, and you’ll be quizzed on this at the end.
After Landon Ferraro and Zdeno Chara both pinch in the offensive zone, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds lead a 2-on-2 rush back down the ice. Trotman looks off Chara to cover Voracek, but fails to shut down Simmonds, who takes a wrister, and follows up on his own rebound to tie the game up at 2-2.
Bad communication in all three zones, and it’s looking like another game the Bruins should’ve taken points out of. But there’s still time, and it’s still tied! Until… 1:22 later, when the Bruins get caught puck watching. After a give-and-go between Giroux and Voracek, defenseman Mark Streit takes his initial blocked shot and sneaks it behind Tuukka Rask on a follow-up chance. Flyers take the lead, 3-2.
Chara was looking lost on his skates, Spooner tracking the puck with only his eyes, and Kevan Miller defending the top of the crease from absolutely no one at all. Bad. Bad. Bad.
The Bruins would still have time remaining, and have a great #bigboy shift from Bergeron & crew, cycling the puck around and controlling play for over a minute, before the 4th line came on in relief and got hemmed in their own zone, giving up multiple chances themselves.
The final push saw Tuukka Rask pulled for the extra skater with 2:15 to go, and a faceoff win and slap-shot one-timer that both resulted in broken sticks for the Bruins. Luck was on neither team’s side, as the Flyers missed three open net chances going the other way.
Ultimately, it was once again not good enough, as the small openings that were there in the waning seconds could not be taken advantage of. The Bruins drop their 2nd-straight game after leading in the 3rd, and have lost 5 of their last 6, and 7 of their last 9. They travel to Buffalo on Friday to finish up what has been a pretty damn deflating road trip.