PROVIDENCE -- Brad Boyes saw the puck sitting in the crease, near the pad of Philadelphia goaltender Antero Niittymaki. With the crease packed with players -- both Bruins and Phantoms -- Boyes took a swipe at the puck just as that pad lifted up and showed him some daylight. It slid into the net at 14:08 of overtime to lift Providence to a 2-1 come-from-behind victory at the Dunkin' Donuts Center last night.
Providence now trails the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals of the Calder Cup playoffs, two games to one, with Game 4 tomorrow night here.
After dropping the first two games, last night was clearly must-win territory for Providence. It looked bleak well into the third period with Providence trailing, 1-0, but a goal by Keith Aucoin with 6:54 remaining in regulation forced the extra session.
Niittymaki and Bruins goalie Hannu Toivonen made 36 saves apiece.
For Boyes, it was a thrill -- and a relief, given that he hit the post late in regulation.
''It was kind of scrambly," said Boyes. ''The puck was lying there right under his pad and I kind of jabbed at it and poked it in. It was big. The next two games in our building, it's going to be tough, it's going to be a battle."
The Phantoms took the lead in the first period on the strength of a goal scored while the teams were skating four a side. With Providence forward Jay Henderson off for roughing and Phantoms defenseman Wade Skolney in the box for holding, Philadelphia pressured the Bruins.
Jeff Carter fired a shot on Toivonen from the left circle, and the netminder made the initial stop. But defenseman Joni Pitkanen, whom the Flyers have very high hopes for once the National Hockey League gets back to work, skated in, corralled the rebound, and backhanded it over Toivonen at 8:10. It was the Phantoms' eighth shot of the period to only a pair for the Bruins.
Providence, which was outshot, 13-9, in the first 20 minutes, played better in the second half of the period and got stronger as the game went on. Pat Leahy had a scoring chance from the right circle with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining but Niittymaki, who has been strong throughout the series, turned it back.
At the 20-minute mark, Philadelphia's Mike Richards was assessed a major for high sticking, giving the Bruins a five-minute power play to start the second period. However, the home team managed just one shot on net.
There was precious little offense from either side during the middle period as the Phantoms outshot the Bruins, 5-4.
At 8:34, Providence heavyweight Colton Orr tried to infuse some life into his team when he took on Philly's Todd Fedoruk, but instead of feeding off his efforts, his teammates fell into penalty trouble. The Phantoms wound up with three power plays from the 12:27 mark on, the third of which came with 36.9 seconds left when the Bruins' best center, Patrice Bergeron, was whistled off for holding. The Bruins managed to kill off the overlapping 1:23 to start the third.
Providence had a man advantage early in the final period when Carter was assessed a hooking penalty but couldn't convert. The drama was saved for late in the period.
At 13:06, Aucoin gave the Bruins new life when defenseman Milan Jurcina fired a lead pass and Aucoin dashed in alone and beat Niittymaki with a forehand under the crossbar.
Toivonen stopped all seven shots he faced in OT, and Boyes did the rest.
''Today was kind of goalie against goalie, and we went into overtime," said Toivonen. ''Fortunately, I was able to get out there and feel pretty comfortable and get those couple of saves out there in OT, and Boyes scored a huge goal for us."