|Mark Recchi drifted on by after the Flyers took a 4-3 lead in the third. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)|
Bottom line: No excuses
Julien says team blew all of its opportunities
When time ran out on the Bruins, Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger was on top of Marc Savard, pinning the playmaker to the ice in the middle of the Philadelphia zone, leaving him helpless, flattened. The Bruins made a final, desperate plunge into the Flyers zone in the last minute, goalie Tuukka Rask on the bench in favor of an extra skater, but they were rebuffed.
The Flyers defense was relentless, holding off the Bruins to claim a 4-3 victory, ending the season for Boston in an astonishing comeback. Philadelphia won Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals just as it won the series, absorbing an early 3-0 charge by the Bruins, then methodically, relentlessly, picking their way back to even, and, ultimately, the victory.
The Flyers will now host Montreal in the Eastern Conference finals, and the Bruins go back to brooding.
It will take a summer of thinking and rethinking for Bruins coach Claude Julien to figure this one out, to absorb how his team could dominate the first three games of the series then unravel in the last four.
“I’m not going to stand here and find excuses,’’ Julien said. “The bottom line is that we had a 3-0 lead in the series. We had a 3-0 lead tonight. And we blew both. There are no excuses. We have to take the responsibility that goes with it. Everyone.’’
Julien was in no mood to point a finger, even at those players responsible for the too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty at 11:10 of the third period that gave the Flyers the power play on which Simon Gagne scored the winning goal.
“You’ve called the next line out and they know who has to go,’’ Julien said, acknowledging that the linesmen have been calling that infraction on sloppy changes consistently.
“There’s no margin of error when it comes to too many guys. If there are two guys by the bench and the puck hits one of them, they’re calling it.
“Again, it’s communication. There was a little bit of hesitation. It’s the playoffs, it’s intense, guys are cranked up and those things happen.’’
The Bruins opened the game with a surge, bringing the kind of energy that had turned the disappointments of their regular season to playoff possibilities. A first-round series against the Sabres whetted the team’s appetite. A 3-0 lead in the second round really got the fans into it. Even after letting the Flyers back into the series, the Bruins had the sellout crowd screaming after the first, fiery period last night.
“No doubt, we were extremely pleased with the way we started the game,’’ Julien said. “We started the way we wanted to start it, we had lots of energy, we got the 3-0 lead and that’s what we wanted to do.’’
But the Flyers’ James van Riemsdyk poked in a soft goal at 17:12 of the first period and something inside the raucous TD Garden stirred.
“Unfortunately they scored that goal,’’ said Julien. “A broken stick, through a couple of guys, and it trickled in and that gave them some life. It would have been nice to come into the dressing room with a 3-0 lead instead of 3-1.’’
The first intermission did not restore the Bruins.
“I didn’t think we came out in the second period very well,’’ Julien said. “They came out strong and we played on our heels a little bit. It took us a while to get going again. We had a couple of good shifts late in the second but I think if we would have had a better second period, it would have been a much different game. I think that’s where they turned it around.’’
By the end of the second, the Flyers had tied the score, 3-3, and the Bruins had unraveled.
“The team that won tonight deserved it,’’ Julien said. “Let’s not forget that. They found a way to win.’’