It’s fitting that two teams near the top of the Eastern Conference standings who have struggled mightily in afternoon starts couldn’t resolve their differences in 65 minutes of actual play.
So it was the Boston Bruins who emerged victorious on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden by a 3-2 count, though not due to the luck of the Irish.
Rather, it had to do with Ilya Bryzgalov returning to his catatonic act in the shootout, failing to stop any of the three Bruins shooters.
Tim Thomas only came up one save better, denying Danny Briere at the right post to end the contest.
Patrice Bergeron was credited with the deciding tally, as the B’s halted a four-game slide, vaulting over Ottawa and back into first place in the Northeast Division
Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin scored for the hosts, who took three of four in the season series. Thomas finished with 27 saves.
“Sometimes when you lose in a shootout, you take it personally. But if you win you feel real good,” said Thomas, who thankfully didn’t have anything to offer the world about the day in question. “That was a hard, 65-minute effort today.”
Mattt Read and Jakub Voracek lit the lamp for the Flyers, who lost for just the second time in their last nine. Bryzgalov stopped 31 shots.
The news didn’t get any better on the health front. Facing a bigger matchup at home on Sunday against Pittsburgh, Max Talbot and Andreas Lilja both left the game and didn’t return with upper-body injuries.
The Penguins have won 11 straight games, one off their run early last season, and are three points ahead of the Flyers with one game in hand overall. Still, that didn’t seem to impress one former member of the Black and Yellow.
“First of all, I think it’s too early to call them best team in the league,” Jaromir Jagr said. Maybe hottest.”
And Jagr would know a few things about it. He was part of the Penguins’ still-standing NHL record of 17 consecutive wins at the end of the 1992-93 season and was the club’s captain during their 10-game win streak midway through the 1998-99 campaign.
Coming out with more on the line and more spring in their step, the Bruins tallied twice in the opening 20 minutes and appeared to have taken control for good.
On the first goal, 6:23 in, Nicklas Grossman failed to tie up Kelly, who cruised through the slot untouched to slip home the rebound of Benoit Pouliot’s original chance.
Boston doubled its advantage at the 17:07 mark on another blown defensive coverage by the Flyers, Bergeron was open up the right-wing boards to accept a feed from and Brad Marchand. He centered to Seguin, who was also untouched at the right side of the crease to stick his shot by Bryzgalov inside the near post.
“It seems like it takes us a few shifts or it takes us to get down a goal to realize we’re in a hockey game,” said Scott Hartnell. “They smoked us in the first half of the game.
Three power-play chances went by the wayside over the first half of regulation before Philly hit the scoreboard.
With one second left on Seguin’s slashing minor, Briere’s left-point blast was tipped home by Read in the slot at the 9:16 mark. The score was the rookie’s 20th of the season, tying him with Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog for top spot in the NHL.
It looked like another set of desultory headlines were about to be written about the Orange and Black’s afternoon hockey woes, but Voracek prolonged things with 4:17 to play.
Read skated along the left-wing boards and dished back to Brayden Coburn, whose floater from the point was deflected by Thomas while Voracek was marked by Andrew Ference and facing towards the blue line while standing in the left circle.
In the shootout, Bryzgalov remained virtually motionless as David Krejci, Seguin and Bergeron all scored with ease. But Thomas was looking equally as statuesque as Read and Claude Giroux converted their own free shots.
Notes: With the goal, Read became the first Flyers rookie to reach 40 points since Jeff Carter in 2005-06…Giroux led his club in ice time with 27:15, one second ahead of Coburn…Zdeno Chara led all players in TOI at an impressive 28:41, 26 seconds ahead of Dennis Seidenberg…The Bruins, who improved to 8-2 in shootouts this year, upped their mark to 27-0 when leading after two period and 32-0-0 this season when leading by two or more goals at any point in regulation.