Since a storybook is required for the Philadelphia Flyers to come back and win this series, getting the first chapter out written was obviously critical.
And the Flyers managed to get it done with a nice touch too as Simon Gagne scored the overtime winner in his return from a broken foot in round one.
The irony is that Gagne, one of the Flyers top marksmen, actually had a pretty frustrating night. Six of his shots were stopped by Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, including one only moments before his winner that would be considered theft in most jurisdictions. But much like Marc Savard did when he returned from a two-month concussion absence to get an overtime goal for Boston in Game 1, Gagne still found a way to play the role of hero when he converting a neat pass from Matt Carle at the lip of the crease. That gave Philadelphia with a 5-4 victory over Boston and more important, prevented the Bruins from completing a sweep.
“We’ve never felt like we’ve been out of it,” said Gagne. “All the games have been tight, but we haven’t got many bounces before tonight.”
That’s debatable, although in many ways this potential series finale was typical of the way things have gone often during this compelling postseason. There was plenty of speed, several momentum shifts, stellar and at times erratic goaltending and certainly enough scoring chances on both sides to provide a sense that no lead was safe.
Maybe that was because the Bruins, who have played some of the most rigid team defense of anyone in the playoffs, didn’t always look that interested in winning. Or that Philadelphia didn’t look like it knew how.
The Flyers were certainly the more energetic team for the first period and a half, helped in no small part because the Bruins got into shutdown mode after going ahead on Mark Recchi’s goal late in the opening period.
"We weren't being proactive," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
That has proven costly for several teams in these playoffs, and Boston realized it after a final-minute breakdown in its own end turned into the tying goal by Daniel Briere. Rask, an early contender for the playoff MVP award misplayed Briere’s five-hole shot and it provided a big lift for the Flyers heading into the dressing room that carried over when the teams returned because Philadelphia scored twice before the 10-minute mark.
That turned the tide and should have been enough on this night, but one of the reasons the Flyers are on the brink of elimination is that they hadn’t figured out how to play with a lead against Boston. Of course this was their first try at it in this series, and it showed because Philadelphia nearly squandered the advantage when goalie Brian Boucher gave up what will rival the goal San Jose’s Dan Boyle scored into his own net in another series for the worst of these playoffs.
Boucher got tangled up trying to cover the post as Michael Ryder’s shot caromed off the backboards, redirecting the puck into the net and apparently waking up the Bruins. The visitors drew even on a power play goal early in the third, gave up what should have been a demoralizing apparent winner to Ville Leino with five minutes left and then found a way to tie it again at 19:28 on Recchi’s second goal.
Boucher found his game in the overtime, and Rask was at his best as well, but this script called for a special ending and Gagne provided it.
“Sometimes that’s the way the story goes,” Julien said. “(But ) anytime you go into another team’s building and you come out with a split, obviously it’s a positive.”