Flyers are back to having their backs against wall
VOORHEES, N.J. — The situation facing the Flyers tonight in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series against the Bruins at TD Garden isn’t entirely unfamiliar.
Sure, they have no experience climbing out of a 3-0 series hole — and with Friday night’s win by Philadelphia, Boston leads the series, three games to one — but the Flyers have spent so much time with their backs against the wall this season it’s beginning to feel natural.
Despite being predicted by many before the season began to be a contender for the Stanley Cup, Philadelphia stumbled badly out of the gate. In one stretch in November and December the Flyers lost 14 of 17 games, tumbling to the bottom of the Atlantic Division and far from playoff position.
After a slow march back to respectability, Philadelphia still needed a shootout victory over the Rangers on the final day of the season to sneak into the playoffs. So the long odds stacked against them are nothing new.
“We’re used to this,’’ said coach Peter Laviolette, who replaced John Stevens behind the bench in the middle of the dreadful winter stretch. “Think about the way we had to play the last two months. Every game was almost like that. We’ve played some of our best hockey when we’ve had to.’’
There’s no doubt Philadelphia will need to play at the top of its game to win tonight. The outcome of Game 4 turned when the Flyers reeled off three straight goals in the first and second periods to gain a two-goal lead. Though the Bruins fought back and eventually sent the game to overtime, Philadelphia’s more relaxed style of play facing elimination was a revelation.
“It’s a fine line,’’ Laviolette said. “You don’t want to tell the guys to relax. There’s got to be intensity and a lot of work ethic. There’s a big job at hand.
“In the same sense, you don’t want them so tight or tense that they can’t go play.’’
There was no tension following yesterday’s practice, as Danny Briere said the team is “having fun,’’ and sardonic defenseman Chris Pronger joked with reporters about his offday activities following Game 4 Friday night.
“It was nice. Do you want to know what I did?’’ Pronger asked, egging on a local scribe. “It’s on a need-to-know basis and you don’t need to know.’’
Always quick to crack wise, Pronger still acknowledged the difficulty of rebounding from losing three straight to start the series. Like his coach, the hulking blue liner fell back on the team’s experience with adversity.
“We’ve been in this situation a number of times this year and this is no different,’’ said Pronger. “We know what we need to do. We’ve played two decent games in their building, but we haven’t had the right success to win the games.’’
There was talk in the Flyers’ locker room after Game 4 about the pressure shifting to the Bruins, who already lost a weekend off by not finishing the sweep and now face the possibility of having to trek back to Philadelphia for Game 6. Whether the Bruins feel any urgency, the Flyers, still on the brink of elimination, seem to have shed that weight from their backs.
“They know they need to win that game because things will get very interesting after that,’’ said Briere, who has five goals and 11 points this postseason. “We’re going [to Boston] and trying to play spoiler. Nobody’s giving us a chance after being down 3-0.’’
Briere and the Flyers know where they stand, and aren’t afraid of what is ahead.
“As long as they don’t tell me to go home,’’ Briere said, “I’m still going to believe.’’
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The Flyers had no comment on the status of Daniel Carcillo, who sat out the third period and overtime Friday, and it’s not known whether he’ll be available tonight.