After Game 2, Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said all the pressure in the Flyers’ Eastern Conference semifinals with Boston was now on the Bruins. They were up two games to none, and they were headed home. His hope was he would get inside the heads of a team that blew a 3-0 lead over the Flyers last spring.
Apparently, the Bruins have learned a thing or two about dealing with pressure.
Boston scored twice in the first 1:03 of the game, and then physically dominated the Flyers en route to a 5-1 win and a commanding 3-0 lead in the series. The Bruins will look to close out the Flyers Friday night (8 p.m.) at TD Garden.
Unlike last year’s Game 7, which saw the Bruins shoot out to a 3-0 lead before allowing the Flyers rally for a win, Boston never let off the pedal last night, physically pounding the Flyers all over the ice. Brad Marchand had a huge hit on Ville Leino on a penalty kill minutes after the Bruins shot out to the lead, followed by a monster hit on Kris Versteeg by Daniel Paille, who later added a goal.
“When we got up in the series, and in the game, we want to make it hard on them,” 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.”
The game turned more physical in the second, as Philly’s Sean O’Donnell and Boston’s Nathan Horton squared off in a decent scrap in front of Brian Boucher. The fight did not inspire the Flyers, as O’Donnell probably hoped; instead, the Bruins scored goals 95 seconds apart (Paille, Horton) to take a 4-0 lead.
Philadelphia’s Andrej Meszaros got his team on the board with 3:34 to play in the second, but it did not faze the Bruins, who controlled the third period with a defensive style and finally scored a power play goal with 1:22 to play. Granted, they needed a 5-on-3 to do it, but the 0-for-the playoffs drought was finally over.
The Bruins find themselves in a familiar spot: up 3-0 in a semifinal series with the Flyers. This appears to be a very different Bruins team, one that fights for everything and recently began putting its skate on the throat of the opponent rather than letting up. Maybe the Bruins have learned some lessons from last year, or maybe it’s the new blood in the locker room, or maybe it’s a combination. Whatever it is, Game 4 will be the first test to see if the Bruins and this core group (Chiarelli, Thomas, Chara, Julien, Bergeron, Krejci) can finally get past Round 2 and into the conference final.
Patrice Bergeron, who had his 10th assist of the playoffs on Chara’s first goal, sounds like learned from last year’s collapse when he spoke after the game, saying “We’re happy tonight, but we can’t get too high in the playoffs. 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.”
Zdeno Chara looked like the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman he is, scoring just 30 seconds into the game, adding a power play goal and an assist, delivering big hits throughout the game, and playing monster minutes.
Tim Thomas made 37 saves, including several good ones right after the Bruins took the 2-0 lead. O’Donnell said Thomas’ play hurt his team’s confidence level: “Two goals isn’t the end of the world with 59 minutes left in the game. It seemed to deflate us a little bit and it took a while to kind of get going. We couldn’t seem to get back into it, and when we did, Thomas made big saves.’’
David Krejci continued his mastery of the Flyers, scoring a goal and assisting on two others. Boston is now 11-1-2 against the Flyers over the past two season with Krejci in the lineup.
Brad Marchard may only have had an assist on the scoresheet, but his contribution was much larger. His hit on Leino minutes into the game helped set the physical tone for the Bruins, and his hustle helped create several scoring chances. He led Boston with seven hits.
Daniel Paille played more than he had in any other game, and responded with a goal and an assist as well as strong physical play.
Boston’s centermen won 43 of 55 faceoffs – a ridiculous number of wins. Patrice Bergeron went 17-2 and Gregory Campbell, who also had an assist, went 11-1.
Boston’s defense did a much better job of decision-making at the offensive blue line and in the neutral zone, as Philadelphia did not have many odd-man rushes – a huge change from Game 2.
Follow Steve Kendall on Twitter @skendallhockey