Well, Saturday's game really was more entertaining than any 1 PM Matinee has a right to be. It was a back-and-forth, brilliant and sloppy, goalie duel with no shortage of chances to turn the game into more of a shootout. As it was, the Bruins prevailed 2-1, and the only surprise--to the dismay of the Philadelphia Flyers, who with the loss saw their already-slim playoff hopes take another hit--was that we didn't make it overtime.
Drew Stafford was credited with the game-winning goal when his low-percentage shot was deflected by Flyers netminder Steve Mason with 5.6 seconds left in the third, with defenseman Brandon Manning being the unlucky culprit (and with Kevan Miller nabbing the official Assist). It was Stafford's second goal in four games since joining the B's from Winnipeg, and it spoiled a fine effort by Mason in frustrating the Bruins for most of the afternoon. The Flyers goalie made 25 saves in a losing effort, including a couple of the highway-robbery level on David Pastrnak. At the other end, Tuukka Rask made 26 saves in surrendering only one goal, including stifling the Flyers on both a 5-on-3 and on all but once chance in a second period that was, oddly, totally dominant for Philly.
The first period was one of the more entertaining periods of hockey you'll see, with plenty of back and forth action. Steve Mason denied the Bruins on a couple of golden scoring chances before, towards the end of the period, Pastrnak took advantage of Brad Marchand hard forecheck and Patrice Bergeron's perfect feed to beat Mason short side. On the other end, the Flyers had a series of chance on a 5-on-3 when both Brandon Carlo and Marchand took penalties in quick succession, including multiple Wayne Simmonds rebound chances that Rask was equal too. Adam McQuaid blocked two shots on the PK as well, the success of which was no doubt a big lift to the home team. Halfway through the first, Brayden Schenn thought he'd scored for Philly by nudging the puck between Rask's pad and the post in the aftermath of a Jakub Voracek breakaway, but the video review upheld the call on the ice as "no goal." Frankly, it might've been a rare example where the Bruins were on the fortunate side of a replay decision.
The oddest thing about this game had to be that, after the first period, it's really hard to pinpoint a time where both teams were playing well at the same time. The Flyers utterly blitzed the Bruins in the second period, coming out--uh--flying and scoring the tying goal only 1:27 into the second, as Jordan Weal tapped in his third of the season off a feed from Simmonds. Philadelphia had multiple chances to untie the score, especially in the first half of the second, but Rask was at the very top of his game.
The script was then flipped for the third period, with the Bruins taking the game to the Flyers for much of the final frame. Mason was equal to the task until, of course, Manning deflected the puck by his own netminder. With about six minutes remaining, it became very clear that both teams--in different divisions and both in need of points--were playing for the OT point. That made it all the more surprising--to say nothing of exciting for Boston and devastating for Philly--when Stafford's "might as well!" effort from the right half-boards found its way into the net.
The Bruins stayed two points ahead of Toronto (who have a game in hand) for the third spot in the Atlantic Division. They'll take on the Vancouver Canucks to begin a key road trip now, which includes a back-to-back against Edmonton and Calgary, followed by a head-to-head with Toronto before, on the second half of another back-to-back, they'll return home to face the Ottawa Senators. While the team had performed well under Cassidy, uneven moments such as the second period of Saturday's game have become a bit more frequent of late, so this trip should be a good litmus test of the team's ability to find consistency down the stretch.