BOSTON – The Philadelphia Flyers know they can do it.
They just can’t afford to think about it—not yet, at least.
For the second consecutive year, the Flyers have spotted Boston a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals. Last year, Philadelphia won the next four games to eliminate the Bruins on its way to the Stanley Cup finals.
“We can’t look at trying to win four in a row. We’re not going to win four games on Friday,” Flyers forward Danny Briere said on Wednesday after Boston won 5-1 in Game 3. “We have to win one game and go from there. That’s all we should be focusing on.”
Zdeno Chara and David Krejci scored in the opening 63 seconds, and the Bruins added two more goals in a 95-second span in the second period to move one game from a spot in the conference finals. Tim Thomas made 37 saves for Boston, which hasn’t advanced out of the second round since 1992.
Whoever wins this series will have home-ice advantage against fifth-seeded Tampa Bay—with a spot in the Stanley Cup finals on the line. The Lightning completed a four-game sweep of top-seeded Washington with a 5-3 win Wednesday night.
“We’re happy tonight, but we can’t get too high in the playoffs,” said Patrice Bergeron, who helped set up Chara’s goal just 30 seconds into the game—his 10th assist of the post-season. “We’re going to celebrate tonight, but we’re going to get right back to work tomorrow and make sure we work Friday, because Philly is not going to quit.”
Brian Boucher stopped 16 shots for the Flyers before he was replaced with 4:46 left in the second period when Daniel Paille and Nathan Horton scored to make it 4-0. Sergei Bobrovsky made seven saves the rest of the way.
Andrej Meszaros spoiled Thomas’ shutout bid with 3:34 left in the middle period. The Flyers pulled the goalie with over 2 minutes left, but back-to-back penalties gave the Bruins a 5-on-3 advantage. Chara put a slap shot in with 1:22 left for Boston’s first power-play goal of the playoffs.
“When we got up in the series, and in the game, we want to make it hard on them,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. “We want them to know that it’s going to be tough, and they’re going to have to work their butt off and really sacrifice their bodies if they even want to have a chance back in the game or the series.”
One year after watching their 3-0 series lead disappear, the Bruins again moved one game from sweeping Philadelphia in the conference semis. This year they have a chance to do it at home, with Game 4 on Friday night at the TD Garden.
A victory in any of the next three games would help erase the sting of last year’s collapse, when Boston led 3-0 in games before Philadelphia came back to tie the series. In Game 7, the Bruins took a 3-0 lead but lost 4-3 and the Flyers went on to the Stanley Cup finals.
“We were not quite as prepared as we should have been have been for what they did at the beginning of the game,” Flyers chairman and founder Ed Snider said in rare postgame comments in the locker room. “I never think this team doesn’t fight. … Last year we showed fight throughout the playoffs. (It’s) very much the same squad. They’re not ever going to quit.”
The Bruins came back to Boston after taking the first two games in Philadelphia to steal home-ice advantage and jumped right on the Flyers.
Boucher made the initial save on Boston’s first charge, but the puck wound up behind the net. Bergeron dug it out and passed it in front to Chara, who slapped it into the net just 30 seconds in. Only 33 seconds later, with the crowd still celebrating the first goal, Horton helped set up Krejci to make it 2-0.
The goals were the fastest allowed by the Flyers at the start of a playoff game in franchise history. It was the fastest a team had scored two goals to start a playoff game since the Red Wings tallied twice in 61 seconds against Phoenix in 1998, according to STATS LLC.
“It’s not the start that we envisioned. You want to get off to a good start, and it didn’t happen today,” Boucher said. “It’s my job to try to stop the puck, and after that we settled down a bit. It’s 2-0 and it got away from us there late in the second. It’s definitely disappointing.”
And the Bruins kept going.
Campbell’s crossing pass left Paille with an open shot at 13:39 of the second. Horton, a playoff rookie, made it 4-0 with his fifth goal of the post-season at 15:14 of the period.
NOTES: The Bruins signed D Ryan Button to an entry-level contract. … After scoring just one goal, with no assists, in the seven-game, first-round series against Montreal, Krejci has scored four goals with two assists against the Flyers. … Bruins D Adam McQuaid, who crashed into the boards headfirst and sprained his neck in Game 2, didn’t play. Shane Hnidy took his place. … D Chris Pronger remained out for the Flyers for the second straight game with an injured hand. But leading scorer Jeff Carter returned after missing the last three games of the first round and the first two of this one with a knee injury.