Well, after months of their brilliant “History will be made” marketing campaign surrounding the 2010 playoffs, the NHL certainly got their wish, as history was made tonight in Boston. For just the 3rd time in NHL history and the first time in 35 years, a team fell behind 3-0 in a playoff series and stormed back to win the series.
In a game that eerily resembled the series as a whole, the Bruins came out flying in the first, taking a 3-0 lead before the end of the period, but saw their lead slip away over the next two periods before fate, it seems, kicked in at the end of the game. Many old-time hockey fans, and anyone who’s ever watched Coach’s Corner should recognize the iconic image of Don Cherry sarcastically bowing to the officials who called a too many men on the ice penalty against his Bruins in 1979 that ended up costing them a playoff series against Montreal. The sixth skater doomed Boston again tonight, as Vladimir Sobotka and Marc Savard got crossed up on a line change late in the 3rd, resulting in a powerplay for the Flyers, and Simon Gagne was able to grab a bouncing puck in the slot and snipe it in off the goalpost to put Philadelphia up 4-3 with just minutes remaining. >
Michael Leighton was solid in net over the final two periods of play, despite giving up three goals in the first 15 minutes. He buckled down over the final 45 minutes of play, finishing the game with 22 saves. Of course, it helped that the team in front of him woke up in time to claw back into the game. Boston scored on their first two powerplays, getting tallies from Michael Ryder and Milan Lucic before the game was even 10 minutes old. Lucic added another a few minutes later and it looked as if the Flyers’ dreams were going to come to a crashing halt.
But this Flyers team hasn’t quit all year, and they didn’t quit tonight. They got a little bit of a lucky break late in the first when James Van Riemsdyk’s shot was partially blocked by Miro Satan and was deflected and slowed down enough to fool Tuuka Rask and get Philly on the board before the end of the period. Troublemaker Scott Hartnell cut the Bruins’ lead to one with his backhand from in tight that he flipped over Rask and just inside the far post, and Danny Briere got his 7th goal of the playoffs six minutes later to knot the game at 3-3. The goal initially appeared not to go in from the vantage point of the network television cameras, but upon further review, Briere’s wraparound attempt clearly deflected in off a Boston defenseman and off the back post of the net before kicking back into play.
Philly came out strong again in the 3rd, outshooting the Bruins 19-11 in the final 40 minutes, while Boston clearly lost the sense of urgency that they started the game with. Even as the game clock wound down and Rask headed for the bench to give the Bruins a legal 6th skater, Boston was still unable to get any real quality scoring chances after Gagne’s powerplay goal put the Flyers ahead for the first time.
For the Bruins, they’ll have to live with the worst playoff collapse in modern NHL history until next season. Philadelphia, on the other hand, despite having the 7th seed, will hold home ice advantage when the Eastern Conference Finals start against Montreal on Sunday. They’re certainly on quite a roll right now, but they’ll have their work cut out for them against a Montreal club that is coming off of two huge upsets, knocking off the Presidents Trophy winner and defending Stanley Cup champs in their last two series.