The Bruins aren’t the Sabres and the Flyers learned that the hard way Saturday afternoon, dropping the opening game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals 7-3.
Tim Thomas had 31 saves on 34 shots while both David Krejci and Brad Marchand had two-goal games to help the Bruins win. Patrice Bergeron had three assists as Boston grabbed the 1-0 lead in the series.
It was the first time since 1988 that Boston scored at least seven times in a playoff game, and it was the first time in five years that Philadelphia allowed that many.
In front of their home crowd, it was important for the Flyers to take charge early. When Krejci scored 1:52 into the game, the Flyers lost any hope of that happening. Working out of an early 1-0 hole, the Flyers were able to tie up the game halfway through the period.
After tipping a Braydon Coburn slap shot from the point, Danny Briere put home his own rebound 11:02 into the first period. His seventh goal of the playoffs put some life into his team, but it wouldn’t leave Philly tied going into the second period.
With only 36 seconds left in the opening period, Nathan Horton followed up his own rebound in the crease and Brian Boucher flubbed the second shot to provide the one-goal lead for Boston. Outshooting Philadelphia 12-8, the Bruins deserved their 2-1 lead heading into the middle period.
The biggest problem for Philly throughout the playoffs has been goaltending. Sergei Bobrovsky, Michael Leighton, and Boucher have all struggled at times in these playoffs. Today, Boucher allowed five goals on 23 shots in less than two periods — three of them in the second.
The first Boston goal came on the last of two attempts by Mark Recchi near the face-off dot to Boucher’s left. A leaky shot from the eternally-young Recchi trickled over the goal-line to give Boston a two-goal lead only 2:33 into the period.
After both teams had two power plays, the Bruins extended their lead to three goals. On a shot from the point that found it’s way through traffic, Krejci redirected an Adam McQuaid blast from blue line. Befuddling Boucher, Krejci had his second of the game and gave Boston the 4-1 lead.
It took the Bruins only 1:48 to make their lead 5-1. Marchand worked his way to the front of the net and was rewarded with a rebound that he’d put home. The goal was all Peter Laviolette needed to yank Boucher and put in Bobrovsky.
Motivating the team instantly, James van Riemsdyk scored his first goal of the series just 16 seconds after Marchand’s to cut the deficit to three.
Philly stared at a tall three-goal deficit to overcome in the last 20 minutes. Not helping matters, the Flyers needed to kill off the remaining 12 seconds in a Claude Giroux slashing minor.
The Flyers didn’t show any sign of life until they were handed a 5-on-3 for 56 seconds late in the third period. Not scoring with the two-man advantage, Mike Richards went short side and top shelf on Thomas to get the Flyers to within two goals.
One would think a goal from Philly should give the Flyers momentum, but Richards’ goal looked to have worked the opposite way.
After pressuring the Flyers for nearly two minutes, the Bruins’ ability to trap Philly in their zone led to Marchand’s second tally on the day. Unfortunately, the Bruins weren’t done.
Not even three minutes later, the Flyers gave up their seventh goal on the day when Gregory Campbell put home his first goal in the playoffs to give Boston a four-goal lead with only 2:21 left to play.
It seemed as though the Bruins just wanted to win more than the Flyers today. Winning most board battles and jumping on every loose puck, the Bruins scored most of their goals today as a result of hard work. It didn’t help Boucher had a couple soft goals. If the Flyers want the split heading into Boston, they’ll need to work harder in their next game.
The Flyers look to avenge today’s loss in Game 2, which takes place at 7:30 pm on Monday.
Notes: The Flyers have never won a Game 1 against the Bruins in the playoffs (0-6). This is the Flyers’ third straight playoff series where they lost Game 1. This is the first game the Bruins have won in regulation since Game 1 of the opening round. The Flyers have made four goalie changes in these playoffs, all performance-based; last postseason, the Flyers made three goalie changes in 23 games, two performance-based (Boucher sprained his knee in Game 5 of ECSF). Both Briere and JVR have scored in four straight games. This is the first time the Flyers gave up seven goals in a game since their 7-0 beating on March 6th against the Rangers. Despite the final tally, the Flyers did out shoot the Bruins 34-33, and 26-21 in the final two periods.