At first glance, after the Philadelphia Flyers’ disheartening 6-1 loss to the Boston Bruins back on Jan. 21, an overtime loss in the first rematch seems like a step in the right direction.
But midway through the third period, it looked like an outright win was in the cards after the Flyers put a sluggish start behind them and built a 3-1 lead. A series of late penalties changed the course of the game, leaving the team and its fans reeling a bit as the Bruins snapped Philadelphia’s four-game win streak in savage fashion.
In his third game back after offseason hip surgery, Boston’s David Pastrnak recorded the ninth hat trick of his career before assisting on Patrice Bergeron’s power-play winner, 31 seconds into overtime.
A Parade Of Penalties
The goal came with Scott Laughton in the penalty box, after he was whistled for interfering with Sean Kuraly along the boards in the defensive zone with eight seconds left in regulation. The call came just seven seconds after the Bruins had tied the game — also on the power play, with Kevin Hayes sitting for an offensive-zone hook on Brad Marchand.
Six minutes earlier, the Bruins needed just 10 seconds of power-play time to start their comeback, while Nicolas Aube-Kubel was penalized for closing his hand on the puck.
All told, the Bruins were 3-for-4 with their quick-strike man advantage, fuelled by the Perfection Line. Bergeron matched Pastrnak’s four-point night with a goal and three assists.
The late-game penalties might have come as a bit of a surprise in a match that saw just six minors in total, and none before the midpoint of the second period.
“As you go throughout the game, you get a feel for what’s going to be called and what isn’t,” said James van Riemsdyk. “I felt that was a little inconsistent tonight. Obviously, they have a hard job though. I think we’ve got to adjust and adapt because we know how good of a power play those guys have.”
Vigneault Holds Players Accountable
In his postgame comments, Flyers coach Alain Vigneault did not let his players off the hook by blaming the officiating.
“You feel like you’re in real good shape, but then you let elite players, by taking penalties, make a difference,” he said. “We put our hand on the puck in the first penalty. Hayes’s one I would have to see over again, but you wrap your arms around somebody even if you don’t touch them. Then Scotty doesn’t move his feet on the final one, fifteen seconds left and that’s a penalty. Referees are going to call that.”
It was deja vu all over again. The Bruins also went 3-for-4 on the power play against the Flyers on Jan 21. After Wednesday’s game, Philadelphia’s penalty kill ranked 26th in the league, with a success rate of just 70.7 percent. Take out those two losses, though, and they’re a very respectable 27-of-33 in their other nine games, good for 81.8 percent.
While still leading 3-2, the Flyers had a golden opportunity to seal the win. With 5:43 left in regulation, they went on the power play when Jeremy Lauzon was called for a hold on Michael Raffl. But the Flyers managed just two shot attempts with the man advantage — Nolan Patrick’s tip-in attempt went wide, and Ivan Provorov’s point shot was blocked by Boston’s Chris Wagner.
Trending: Late Game Fireworks
Through 11 games, the Flyers have scored 38 goals and allowed 34. A good chunk of that scoring on both sides has come in the third period, with 17 goals scored and 15 allowed. The only period where the club has a negative goal differential is the second, where the club has scored nine times and given up 11.
Overall, the club’s first periods have been solid, with 10 goals scored and just seven against. Wednesday’s game got off to an uncharacteristic start. Off the opening faceoff, Pastrnak raced into the offensive zone off and cut wide around Shayne Gostisbehere. Then, he wristed a laser past Carter Hart, just 12 seconds into the game.
That could have triggered another series of unfortunate events. The Flyers didn’t record their first shot of the game until the 10:32 mark of the opening frame — and that was a long backhand out of the defensive zone by Gostisbehere. Hart kept the Bruins at bay until the skaters in front of him could find their legs. At the end of the first period, the shot clock was even at 8-8.
A Solid Effort, Squandered
“Carter played well,” said Claude Giroux. “He gave us a chance, especially early on when we didn’t have much going on. He closed the door.
“When we were down 1-0, at that point we didn’t have any momentum,” he continued. “Kube had some good shifts, we started rolling a little bit.
“We were able to get that lead, 3-1 and at that point, we were playing pretty well. Obviously, their power play hurt us at the end.”
Wednesday marked the second-straight game where the Flyers haven’t been able to hang onto a 3-1 lead. Against the Islanders on Sunday, they pulled out the overtime win thanks to a Kevin Hayes goal. But they still let their opponent get a loser point. Against Boston, the Flyers had to settle for the single point themselves.
Heading into Friday’s rematch, the Flyers’ record in their season series against the Bruins is 0-1-2. They’ve eked out two points, while the Bruins have six. For the moment, the two teams are tied atop the East Division standings, though Boston has a game in hand.
Later this month, the fifth game of the eight-game series between the two teams should be especially memorable. It will be played outdoors at Lake Tahoe on Feb. 21.