WILMINGTON, Mass. – Bruins forward Marc Savard returned after missing seven weeks with a concussion and scored in overtime to win a playoff game. Philadelphia’s Simon Gagne came back after missing four playoff games with a broken toe and also scored a game-winner.
Boston defenceman Mark Stuart came back from a month-long layoff and struggled to stay on the ice in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Flyers – sitting out the entire overtime, when Gagne scored to help Philadelphia avoid a four-game sweep.
As the best-of-seven series heads back to Boston for Game 5 on Monday night, the Bruins are hoping for more from Stuart and the other players who are returning from injury to make up for the guys they’ve lost in two physical series so far.
“He’ll be ready to go for the next one,” Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said of Stuart, who hadn’t played since April 1 because of an infected finger. “He is competitive; that’s the type of player he is. He’s hard on himself, because he demands so much from himself.”
Stuart played just nine minutes 46 seconds in Game 4, when he rushed back to replace injured rookie Adam McQuaid. Stuart didn’t get off a shot or get credited with a hit in the game; he did tip Chris Pronger’s goal into the Bruins net in the second period, and he finished with a minus-2.
The Flyers won 5-4 on Gagne’s goal at 14:40 of overtime – the mirror image of Game 1, when Savard’s comeback keyed Boston’s overtime victory.
“It was kind of the same game, but you reverse the two roles there,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic said Sunday after the team worked out at its practice facility. “It has been definitely an emotional roller coaster.”
The celebration over Savard’s return in Game 1 was tempered when Marco Sturm tore the ligaments in his right knee in the first shift and was lost for at least six months. And though Stuart returned Friday, he couldn’t make up for the loss of David Krejci for the rest of the playoffs with a dislocated right wrist.
Boston could get more help from defenceman Dennis Seidenberg, who was expected to be done for the season with a lacerated tendon. He was back on the ice Saturday – skating alone with a coach – and hopes to move up his return if the Bruins advance.
“Every time you could have guys that you missed from the injury, it’s always a plus,” Gagne said. “I just try to go out and do my best, maybe I got lucky on this one but I don’t know. It was good timing.”
The Flyers have had their own injury problems.
A two-time 40-goal scorer, Gagne missed the first three games of the series and the clincher in the first-round victory over New Jersey. Although he was back in the lineup Friday, he had to sit out the first dozen minutes of overtime because of fatigue.
“It’s the time of year where you’re playing through injuries, you’re playing through a lot of things,” Flyers forward Mike Richards said. “No one’s really 100 per cent, but for him to come back, it’s obviously a big thing for us.
“He’s one of our leaders, he’s a guy who’s been here for a long time, and we’ve counted on him a lot. … We leaned on him, and he answered.”
The Flyers are not saying what’s wrong with Daniel Carcillo, who sat out the third period and overtime Friday. Coach Peter Laviolette would not comment or say whether Carcillo will be available for Game 5 on Monday.
“Obviously they get a high with Gagne coming back, but Carcillo went down,” Lucic said. “It’s just been crazy how many guys are dropping like flies everywhere around the league. It’s definitely been an emotional roller coaster there.”
The Flyers are hoping to keep the ride going, but they still need to win three more in a row to advance.
“We’re back in this thing,” goalie Brian Boucher said. “We feel good about ourselves and now the pressure is on them. They’re going home and we still have nothing to lose here. We’re going to give our best on the road, give a good road effort, and hope to bring it back here.”
Bruins defenceman Johnny Boychuk disagreed.
“They have everything to lose. They’ve got their whole season to lose,” he said. “I don’t see why all the pressure would be on us when we’re the ones up three games to one.”
AP freelancer Matt Kalman contributed to this story.