BOSTON – No collapse for the Boston Bruins this time. Not even close.
And for the Philadelphia Flyers, no chance to return to the Stanley Cup finals.
Milan Lucic scored his first two goals of the playoffs, Johnny Boychuk got the go-ahead score, and the Bruins completed a sweep of the Eastern Conference semifinal series with a 5-1 win over the Flyers on Friday night.
In this same round against the same team last May, the Bruins became just the third NHL team to lose a series after winning the first three games. Boston even held a 3-0 lead at home in Game 7 before the Flyers rallied again for a 4-3 victory.
“I think we learned a lot from last year, that experience, and I think it made us a more determined hockey club,” Lucic said. “We can definitely put everything behind us with what happened last year. So it’s a real good feeling.”
The Flyers went on to the finals where they lost in six games, the clincher for the Chicago Blackhawks coming on an overtime goal. This year, the Bruins outscored Philadelphia 20-7 in the one-sided series.
“It’s disappointing whenever you end the season on a loss,” Philadelphia captain Mike Richards said. “It’s a slippery slope when you stop playing your brand of hockey.”
When it was over—after empty-net goals by Brad Marchand and Daniel Paille boosted the volume on the fans’ cheers—Boychuk embraced goalie Tim Thomas in front of the Bruins net.
“The puck came to me and it was kind of rolling and I just tried to put it on net and it went in,” said Boychuk, who gave Boston a 2-1 lead on a 50-foot slap shot at 2:42 of the third period. “That’s about it.”
Except that the win put the Bruins in the conference finals for the first time since 1992.
“Regardless of the two goals, this win is a huge win for our hockey club and our organization,” Lucic said.
Lucic scored a power-play goal at 12:02 of the first period before Kris Versteeg lifted Philadelphia into a 1-1 tie at 13:22 of the second. After Boychuk’s goal, Lucic connected again at 15:03.
“I’m not going to say the better team won, but the team that was playing better is moving on,” Flyers defenceman Sean O’Donnell said.
The Bruins will have home-ice advantage against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Philadelphia was swept 4-0 for the first time since losing to Detroit in the 1997 Stanley Cup finals.
Boston has won eight of nine games and is aiming for its first Stanley Cup title since 1972. Tampa Bay won it all in 2004.
The Bruins began rolling after losing the first two games of their first-round series at home to Montreal. They won the next three games, lost Game 6, and advanced with an overtime win in Boston in Game 7.
Their offence took off against the Flyers. The Bruins won the opener in Philadelphia 7-3, then took the second game 3-2 in overtime before returning home for a 5-1 win on Wednesday night.
“They took it to us right from the start,” Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. “My first reaction is that we got beat by a better team in this series. They deserve to be moving on.”
Now, with Vezina Trophy finalist Thomas performing brilliantly, the Bruins have reached the round that eluded them last year. But nine of the 20 players who suited up for them on Friday, including Thomas, didn’t play in the four losses to Philadelphia in 2010.
“You hear all the talk about what happened last year and you have to ignore it to be able to do what we just did,” Thomas said. “I’m glad that it’s done with because the longer that series would have went, the more talk about last year.”
Boychuk’s game-winner was his second goal of the playoffs. The defenceman got the puck after a faceoff in the left circle and quickly fired a hard shot from just in front of the right point to the near side that Sergei Bobrovsky couldn’t grab with his glove.
Bobrovsky, who started Game 1 of the series, got the start again with the season on the line. He replaced Brian Boucher, who had been ineffective in the other losses.
Bobrovsky “gave us anopportunity to win the game,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “It was 1-1 in the third period.”
The Bruins had taken their 1-0 lead on the goal by Lucic, who scored a team-high 30 goals in the regular season. David Krejci sent a pass from the left circle to Nathan Horton at the left corner of the crease. Horton quickly fed Lucic on the other edge of the crease for an easy goal, his first score of the playoffs, into the open side of the net.
It was Boston’s second goal in three power plays after going scoreless on its first 31 in the post-season.
The Flyers tied it when Versteeg went in alone and beat Thomas after Richards stole a pass by Marchand.
Boston had been the aggressor with an 18-9 advantage in shots midway through the second period. But Versteeg’s goal seemed to energize Philadelphia, although the Flyers had a tough time capitalizing after committing two penalties in the last 3:05 of the period.
The Bruins were putting pressure on the Flyers when Marchand tried to pass across the ice from near the right point. Instead, he put the puck right on Richards’ stick. Richards skated slightly ahead of Boston defenceman Dennis Seidenberg before giving the puck to Versteeg, who scored his first of the playoffs.
Notes: Patrice Bergeron, one of Boston’s top players in these playoffs, didn’t return after being hit by Claude Giroux just before Boychuk’s goal. Bruins coach Claude Julien didn’t have an update on his condition. … Philadelphia was without D Chris Pronger for the third straight game because of a hand injury. … Boston D Adam McQuaid missed his second consecutive game with a sprained neck after crashing into the boards headfirst in Game 2.