PHILADELPHIA – The Flyers kept firing at Tim Thomas. Breakaways, wristers, slappers. Using his pads, his stick, his body, Thomas turned ’em all away 46 straight times.
Thomas shook off a slow start and stopped all the perfectly placed shots—and Boston rewarded him for it in OT.
Thomas was phenomenal, David Krejci scored 14:00 into overtime, and the Bruins beat Philadelphia 3-2 on Monday night to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Thomas, a Vezina Trophy finalist, stopped 46 consecutive shots after the Flyers took a quick 2-0 lead in the first period. He snared and smothered pucks, stopped them with his legs and elbows, and muted a Flyers offence that never stopped shooting.
“He was by far the star of the game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “He stood tall, and if it wasn’t for Timmy, we wouldn’t be standing here with a win.”
The series now shifts to Boston for the next two games on Wednesday and Friday.
Krejci fired a one-timer from one knee that ricocheted off the back off the net and back onto the ice. Play continued until officials could review the call. But the goal was clearly good.
“At first I thought it was in. Then they kept playing,” Krejci said.
James van Riemsdyk had a breakout game for the Flyers. He scored two goals and was all over the ice trying to help the Flyers win at least one at home.
Instead, they have to rally from another deficit.
“I think we’re going to go into Boston, we’re going to play a strong hockey game and we’re going to win the game,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said.
Chris Kelly and Brad Marchand also scored for the Bruins, who have taken a seemingly commanding lead on the Flyers for the second straight year. Boston led 3-0 in the East semis a year ago before the Flyers won four straight to advance—including a rally from a 3-0 hole in Game 7.
Thomas was on the bench for that collapse.
He is determined not to let that happen on his watch. Thomas, who finished with 52 saves on Monday, was tested under pressure all game and shook off the slow start to stop everything fired his way.
“They got a couple of quick goals, a couple of good bounces,” Thomas said. “But, as the game went on, I just tried to build. By the time I got to the third period, I was starting to feel real good.”
Thomas stood strong when the Flyers outshot the Bruins 13-3 to open the third and took 22 overall in the period.
It was the one they didn’t shoot that haunted them. Danny Briere, who has seven goals this post-season, fanned on an easy look off a faceoff. Thomas was out of position after a blocked shot sent the puck to Briere, and the All-Star seemingly just had to connect. His second attempt was stopped by Thomas as the final seconds of regulation ticked off.
Brian Boucher couldn’t hold off the OT charge.
“It’s the perfect scenario to be able to win the first two games on the road,” Julien said. “But we know they’re not going to give up.”
Boucher won games this post-season as a starter and reliever. He mixed both in Game 2. Boucher stopped 21 shots before he left the game in the middle of the second period after he appeared to hurt his wrist.
It was the fifth time in nine playoff games the Flyers made a goalie switch—the first because of injury rather than ineffectiveness. The score was 2-2 when Boucher left and when he returned.
The crowd was rocking from the start after they heard the usual stirring rendition of “God Bless America,” live by Lauren Hart and on video by the late Kate Smith. Fans chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!” after lineups were introduced, and again after the song was finished, a day after Osama bin Laden was killed.
“That was pretty cool, as an American,” van Riemsdyk said. “And the fans are pretty passionate about sports and our country. That was pretty cool to be a part of.”
Van Riemsdyk kept 20,000 orange-clad fans roaring when he scored only 29 seconds into the game. He beat Thomas againmidway into the period, mixing the power play with a dose of pride and patriotism, for the fast lead.
In these playoffs, a 2-0 lead almost seems like a 2-0 hole. The Flyers are forced to keep attacking because the goaltending has been so porous.
Sure enough, Boucher and the Flyers blew it in a hurry.
Kelly scored off a rebound, and Marchand’s wrister through Boucher’s legs gave Boston goals only 1:25 apart and a tie.
After a four-goal first, the teams settled down until Krejci’s winner.
The Bruins pounded Sergei Bobrovsky in his limited relief role, but the rookie stopped all six shots.
Boucher and Thomas both made game-saving stops at various points. Boucher stuffed Daniel Paille on the breakaway in the first; Thomas made a sliding, sweeping leg save to deny Nikolay Zherdev in the second.
Flyers captain Mike Richards missed on all 10 shots.
“He was hot,” Briere said. “He was seeing every shot. I really believe if we keep playing the same way, we’ll get good results.”
Krejci hit the left post on an wide-open look against Bobrovsky, but made the most of his chance in overtime.
The Bruins hold the 2-0 lead after rallying from the same hole to beat Montreal in the first round.
“It’s good to be on the other side of 2-0 now, and we get to go home,” Krejci said. “And it’ll be great to be in front of our crowd, they will be a great seventh man for us.”
The Bruins lost defenceman Adam McQuaid in the first period after he slammed headfirst into the boards. McQuaid tried to throw an elbow at Mike Richards, but the Flyers captain sidestepped him, and McQuaid went down in a heap. He was motionless on the ice for several minutes and needed a trainer and help back to the locker room.
He went to the hospital, but was set to return with the team to Boston.
That evened the score on injured defencemen.
Philadelphia’s Chris Pronger sat out with an undisclosed injury. Pronger missed games in the Flyers’ first-round series against Buffalo while he recovered from a broken right hand. The Flyers sent out an injury report after Monday morning’s pregame skate that stated Pronger was “OK.”
Notes: The Flyers set a team record for shots in a period in a home playoff game with 22 in the third. The overall record is 28 set in 1997 against Pittsburgh. … The Flyers are 3-13 in series they have trailed 2-0.