Hardly flying, but a decent start for Philadelphia
In the waning minutes of the third period of yesterday’s game, Daniel Briere made a beauty of a play out of a breakaway out of the Flyers’ zone, faking a wrister and knifing through an opening between Bruins defensemen Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick. He gathered a lucky bounce off his skate after Hunwick’s poke attempt and roofed a rebound after Tuukka Rask denied the initial backhander.
“It’s one of those plays where, usually, you don’t want to lose the puck in the neutral zone like that,’’ Briere said of his goal, which made it 4-4 and forced overtime. “But late in the game, a one-on-two, my teammates were going for a change, so I just tried to go for it.’’
And with it came a collective sigh from the capacity crowd. Yes, Marc Savard’s overtime winner put a storybook stamp on Boston’s 5-4 win in an intense Game 1. But it’s clear that this by no means will be an easy series.
After a rough start, the Flyers made it evident with their efforts over the final periods that they’re in this for the long haul.
With leading goal scorer Jeff Carter on the mend after having foot surgery last week, and Simon Gagne not a possibility until at least Game 3, the Flyers have had to muscle their way to playoff victories.
Yesterday, they lived up to their hard-hat reputation, holding the advantage in hits (44-28) and blocked shots (19-16). And to top things off, they went 2 for 4 against a penalty kill that didn’t allow a power-play goal by the Sabres in Round 1.
After a shaky first period lacking in net-front presence — one the players and coach Peter Laviolette said may have been the result of an eight-day layoff — the Flyers showed plenty of grit, with a little of that Broad Street attitude.
There was Mike Richards’s scrum with Savard midway through the second period that produced three roughing penalties, two for the Flyers.
In the third period, Chris Pronger got into a dust-up with former Flyer Mark Recchi, drawing matching roughing penalties and an additional cross-checking call for Recchi, the former Crazy Eight liner.
“You are going to have battles in the trenches and in front of net,’’ said Pronger, whose one-timer from the blue line beat Rask late in the second. “[Recchi] is a guy who competes hard. I’m sure there will be more.’’
Scott Hartnell somehow avoided a foolish penalty with seven minutes to go in regulation when he knocked over Rask trying to set up in front of the crease. Fans screamed for an interference call, only to watch Richards skip one in a few seconds later and cut Boston’s lead to 4-3.
Meanwhile, in the Flyers net Brian Boucher started off the game looking more like the journeyman who went 9-18 this season than the one who baffled the Devils in the first round. After some key late saves, he hit full throttle in overtime, thwarting seven shots in the first 2 1/2 minutes before Savard beat him top shelf a few minutes later after a crucial Wideman pinch.
“Danny threw it to the side of the net,’’ said Boucher of Savard’s goal. “I tried to get it back to him and the guy intercepted it, kept the play alive.
“Obviously, looking back on it, I would have tried to freeze it. I didn’t know what was behind me and I didn’t know if there was a guy coming from behind.’’
“We’ve been in a tough grind here for months trying to get into this thing,’’ Laviolette said. “They’ve shown a lot of resiliency all year long. They showed a lot of heart, they played hard, and there’s room for improvement in our game.’’