PHILADELPHIA – The Boston Bruins finally found a way to protect a lead against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Tim Thomas stopped Scott Hartnell on a second-period penalty shot and finished with 41 saves for his NHL-leading fifth shutout of the season in the Boston Bruins’ 3-0 victory Wednesday night.
The 36-year-old Thomas, 12-2-1 with an NHL-best 1.46 goals-against average and .955 save percentage, helped Boston beat Philadelphia in their first meeting since the Flyers rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to edge the Bruins in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
“We met a goalie that stops everything—backdoors, breakaways, some great chances in front,” Hartnell said. “He’s covering up the rebounds. It’s frustrating when you have so many chances and rebounds, 2-on-1s, and everything. He’s there to make the save every time.”
Patrice Bergeron, rookie Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic scored in Boston’s second win in its last six games.
Thomas improved to 9-0-0 on the road, the best road start since Chicago’s Glenn Hall also won his first nine games away from home in 1965-66.
Bergeron opened the scoring on a power play at 5:40 of the first period. Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky stopped Lucic’s attempt, but defenceman Sean O’Donnell’s clearing attempt went to Bergeron between the faceoff circles, and he fired a shot by Bobrovsky’s right arm.
Seguin scored with 4:48 left in the first, taking a pass from Michael Ryder and finding a place at the top of the net for his fifth goal of the season and first since Nov. 17.
Thomas was especially sharp in a 16-save second period, when he turned away Danny Briere from point-blank range, stopped Hartnell on a wraparound attempt, and foiled Andreas Nodl streaking down the left side.
“Briere was right in front of the net,” Thomas said. “That was so quick. I surprised myself on it. I knew that luck was on my side after that. I made some other good saves, but none where I had to react that quick.”
Thomas stopped Hartnell again on a breakaway, then had to stop him again when a tripping call on Andrew Ference gave Hartnell a penalty shot. The Flyers’ left wing committed to a backhand attempt, and Thomas easily turned it away.
“I tried to get him to bite on the fake shot, I went to the backhand and got it up,” Hartnell said. “He got a piece of the glove on it and obviously it stayed out.”
Thomas let the play come to him.
“You’d like to do that on every shooter,” Thomas said. “I played it the way I’ve been playing shootouts lately. I didn’t want to overthink it and think of what he might do. He took a shot low blocker. At one point, I started to think, ‘Is it going to go back there,’ and then I emptied my mind and just reacted.”
It worked that way all game for him.
Lucic scored into an empty net with 1:48 left.
The Flyers lost for the first time in regulation since dropping a Nov. 18 game to Tampa Bay, 8-7, and were shut out for the second time this season. The Flyers again struggled on the power play, going 0-for-4 to drop to 2-for-37 in their last eight games.
The Bruins haven’t blown a lead yet this season, and have it result in a loss. They also got some revenge.
“That’s what we wanted to do coming here tonight,” Seguin said. “Not only was it revenge for last year, but we also wanted a nice fresh start. That has been our main thing as of late. We wanted to come out with a better start, be hungrier and play a little more desperate hockey. Tonight we did that.”
NOTES: Bruins centre Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome) has resumed practising with the team. … Flyers goalie Michael Leighton (back surgery) is with Adirondack of the AHL on a conditioning assignment.