Flyers break through
Gagne’s OT strike thwarts Bruins’ sweep
PHILADELPHIA — With 31.5 seconds remaining in regulation last night, Mark Recchi’s six-on-five goal tied the score at 4 and sent the game to overtime, where the Bruins, still buzzing from the third-period strike, believed they would take care of business against the Flyers.
“You score with 30 seconds left to tie it up, you think you’re going to go into overtime and bury one,’’ said Johnny Boychuk.
But in overtime, all that blew up in the Bruins’ faces after an ill-advised pass by the player least expected to make a prime-time error.
Zdeno Chara, the captain and shutdown ace, lugged the puck through the neutral zone. Then he flipped a backhand pass through the middle of the ice that landed on the stick of Matt Carle. The Philadelphia defenseman wasted little time triggering the rush the other way. At the end of the sequence, Simon Gagne, playing for the first time in the series (he missed the first three games because of a broken toe), tapped a Carle feed past Tuukka Rask at 14:40 to give the Flyers a 5-4 victory at the Wachovia Center.
The Bruins, up 3-1 in the series, will have to wait until Monday at TD Garden to have an other crack at eliminating the Flyers.
“We’ve got a couple days off,’’ said Recchi, who scored two goals, his fifth and sixth of the postseason. “We’ll regroup and recharge, then go again on Monday.’’
After picking off Chara’s pass, Carle sent a tape-to-tape puck to Mike Richards at the offensive blue line. But as soon as Carle got rid of the puck, he joined the rush, sprinting through neutral ice to support the attack. Before the Bruins could regroup, the Flyers had turned the turnover into an odd-man rush.
Richards, protecting the puck on the right-side wall, rolled off a Chara check and spotted Carle as the trailer. Richards sent a pass to Carle that a backchecking Recchi nearly snuffed out.
But by then, it was too late.
“Right away, as soon as I turned around, Carle had the puck,’’ said Patrice Bergeron, who, as the third man high, nearly stepped in front of Richards’s pass.
Dennis Wideman, caught in no-man’s land between Carle and Gagne, tried to cut the gap on the puck-carrying defenseman. But before Wideman could approach, Carle (four assists, on the ice for five Philly goals) connected with Gagne at the far post. Bergeron tried to lift Gagne’s stick, but he buried his shot to extend a series the Bruins had hoped to close out.
“It was quick,’’ Bergeron said of the winning play. “But we got spread out. They made a good play.’’
It was a morale-crushing goal that rubbed out the good feelings of Recchi’s third-period equalizer. The Bruins, down, 3-1, in the second period (the Flyers scored three straight goals after Recchi’s game-opening score at 15:37 of the first), started to rally when Michael Ryder was credited with a second-period goal. Ryder shot a wrister off the end boards (breaking his stick on the attempt) that Brian Boucher appeared to cover. But Vladimir Sobotka drove to the net and appeared to cause Boucher to flub the rebound and put the puck into his own goal at 10:56 of the second.
The Bruins tied the score at 3:49 of the third when Milan Lucic tipped a Wideman shot past Boucher (33 saves). After Ville Leino got a piece of a Chris Pronger one-timer, sending the deflection past Rask (29 saves), the Bruins punched back in the final minute of the third.
With Rask off for an extra skater, the Bruins caught a break when Darroll Powe iced the puck with 38.6 seconds left (Wideman sprinted after the puck to halt the clock). On the following faceoff, Marc Savard lost the draw to Richards.
But that didn’t stop Lucic.
The big left wing barreled into Pronger and prevented the defenseman from chasing down Richards’s win. As Lucic created space, Bergeron went down the left-side wall and retrieved the puck before Kimmo Timonen could arrive.
“We were both on the wall,’’ Bergeron said. “That’s the good thing of being six on the ice, right? So Looch went at him, then I was able to get the puck back.’’
After controlling the puck, Bergeron sent a pass up the wall to Wideman. In turn, Wideman (two assists, five shots, team-high 33:13 of ice time) gave it back to Bergeron.
The center, from the left-side wall, spotted Recchi open at the far post. Bergeron threaded a pass through the seam to Recchi, who roofed the tying shot over Boucher to touch off a celebration.
“When I gave it to Wides, I kind of looked to see what was going on,’’ said Bergeron (two assists and six shots in 22:56 of ice time). “As soon as I got it, I tried to get it there.’’
At 10:36 of overtime, the Bruins went on the power play, Powe called for boarding Savard. But the Flyers killed the penalty, then had one of the best chances of overtime when, after an offensive-zone faceoff, Gagne whirled and fired a shot that Rask kicked out with the tip of his right pad.
Less than a minute later, however, Gagne would have the last laugh.
“They’re a good team,’’ Bergeron said. “They’re resilient. They’re going to be desperate again. We need to match that. We need to be a little better.’’