The Philadelphia Flyers hosted the Boston Bruins in a Saturday matinee at Wells Fargo Center as they battled to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Philadelphia entered the game six points behind the Bruins for the fourth and final playoff berth in the East Divison. They cut that deficit to just four points thanks to a huge 3-2 win in regulation in South Philadelphia.
The Bruins came out of the gate with plenty of jump as they peppered Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott early on and just 5:38 into the game, Boston would find their way on the scoreboard first.
Elliott skated behind his net and set up the puck for Shayne Gostisbehere to break out, but Gostisbehere was stripped of the puck by Brad Marchand. Marchand fed the puck to Craig Smith, who then located Patrice Bergeron in the slot. The Bruins captain fired a shot past the blocker side of Elliott and gave Boston an early 1-0 advantage.
The Bruins also smothered the Flyers defensively, and Philadelphia could not register a shot on goal until the 8:26 mark of the first period. But once the first shot got through on Boston’s Jeremy Swayman, the Flyers would rack up the next three shots in the game as well, and the last one would end up in the net thanks to Travis Konecny.
Travis Sanheim set up a Robert Hägg one-timer from the right point that hit Swayman but the Bruins’ netminder could not control it. Konecny collected the rebound and buried it past Swayman and into the net to even the score at 1-1 with 8:09 to play in the first period.
Boston would try to respond afterwards, giving Elliott and the Flyers trouble in their end and forcing another wave of shots on net, but Philadelphia stood tall and kept the game tied.
With 2:29 to play, Boston’s Jeremy Lauzon was sent to the box for roughing after he popped Konecny in the mouth after a post-whistle scrum behind the Bruins’ net. This set up Philadelphia’s first power play of the afternoon and they made it count.
Just 15 seconds after the power play began, James van Riemsdyk dished the puck over to the speeding Konecny. Konecny found the driving Shayne Gostisbehere down low and shot the puck towards Gostisbehere, and the Flyers defenseman deflected the puck home for a 2-1 Philadelphia lead to redeem himself after his gaffe on the Bruins’ goal. Konecny and van Riemsdyk each earned their 19th assists of the season on Gostisbehere’s power play tally.
The brief duration of the frame after that was uneventful and the horn sounded for the first intermission with the Flyers leading. This was the first time Philadelphia lead the game at the end of the first period since March 15th against the New York Rangers.
Philadelphia began the second period with another power play early on as Konecny drew another penalty, this time a holding call 52 seconds into the frame at the expense of Connor Clifton. However, the Flyers could not capitalize on it and the power play was abbreviated after a Nolan Patrick trip on Lauzon with 22 seconds left in the Clifton minor.
The Flyers would kill the shortened Boston power play and maintain their 2-1 lead. Both teams would trade shots on goal afterwards as the period went on but to no avail.
Boston would head back to the power play with 10:54 to play in the middle frame after Sanheim was whistled for holding the stick against Jake DeBrusk, and the Bruins would look to even this game up. Thankfully, the Flyers killed off another penalty despite some dangerous looks from Boston’s power play units.
Philadelphia could not hold the Bruins at bay for much longer however, as shortly after Sanheim’s penalty was over, DeBrusk beat Elliott over the glove with 8:15 to go in the period. A brief passing play in close had the Flyers scrambling to reach the puck as Steven Kampfer found Charlie Coyle in the slot, then Coyle directed the puck to Smith. Smith then found the open DeBrusk in the low slot to tie the game at two goals apiece.
Despite each teams’ respective efforts, the game would remain at 2-2 as the second period came to a close. The Flyers were outshot 11-7 for the second straight period and trailed 22-14 total, but they were hanging on against a Boston club who’s occupying the final playoff spot in the division.
The Bruins came out for the third period by continuing their shooting onslaught, recording five of the frame’s first six shots on net but Elliott handled them all with confidence to keep the game tied. Philadelphia committed some really egregious turnovers that led to some of the shots as well, but they lived to tell about them thanks to their goaltender.
With 13:01 to play, the Flyers finally triumphed and took a 3-2 lead. James van Riemsdyk was once again involved, as he passed the puck to Joel Farabee in the slot from the left corner. Farabee then swung the puck over to Sean Couturier, and #14 in orange stuffed home the puck past the diving Swayman to give the Flyers the lead on his 12th goal of the season.
Just 1:11 after Couturier’s tally, Kevin Hayes was sent to the box for cross-checking against David Pastrnak and Boston’s power play would take to the ice for their third opportunity to the game. But as was the case with the first two chances, the Flyers killed off another penalty and bailed their center out.
Philadelphia would commit another infraction just 3:35 later as Ivan Provorov was called for tripping, also against Pastrnak, but the Flyers would once again stifle the Bruins’ power play and kill their fourth penalty of the game.
With 5:39 to play in the third period, the Flyers looked like they had taken a 2-goal lead after a Gostisbehere blast got through Swayman, but it was deemed goalie interference after a coach’s challenge by Boston bench boss Bruce Cassidy. It was ruled that Jake Voracek impeded Swayman’s ability to make the save by making contact with him in the crease. It was the correct call and Philadelphia’s lead remained at 3-2.
The Flyers would continue to pressure the Bruins and Boston could not get Swayman to the bench for the extra attacker until about 56 seconds to go in the period. Boston had some quality looks but the defensive efforts of the Flyers and the great play of Elliott down the stretch lifted the Flyers to a much-needed 3-2 regulation win against the Bruins.
3 STARS OF THE GAME – 1) Travis Konecny – PHI, 2) Brian Elliott – PHI, 3) Sean Couturier – PHI
- Travis Konecny – Konecny netted his ninth goal of the season in the first period and recorded the primary assist on Shayne Gostisbehere’s goal just under six minutes later. Konecny is now riding a five-game point streak and has points in eight of his last 10 games.
- Brian Elliott – Elliott played an outstanding game in perhaps Philadelphia’s most important game of the season. The Moose made 30 saves, and among them were some really high-danger looks for Boston but he stood tall to help the Flyers win.
- Robert Hägg – I thought Hägg played his best game of the season in this one and was surprisingly good. He had the primary assist on Konecny’s goal, he seemed to be skating well, he made a lot of good decisions with the puck and played well in his own end. Hopefully he can keep it up.
- Shayne Gostisbehere – Gostisbehere was once again one of Philadelphia’s most impactful defenseman and contributed on both sides of the puck. He did have the puck taken away from him that led to Boston’s first goal, but he more than made up for it. He cashed in the power play late in the first period and almost had a second goal but it was called back, and he was getting in the way of the Bruins’ shots and was playing much better as the game went on.
- James van Riemsdyk – van Riemsdyk had an effective afternoon, racking up two assists on the Gostisbehere goal and the Couturier goal that stood as the game-winner. JVR ended his nine-game scoring drought dating back to March 23rd and now has 33 points in 40 games.
- Special Teams – Both special teams units came to play today against Boston. The Flyers’ power play connected on its first of two chances with the Gostisbehere tally, and the penalty kill held off the Bruins’ very powerful man advantage on all four chances they earned in the game. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come as Philadelphia enters the home stretch to try and keep their playoff hopes alive.
- Penalties – The Flyers had a lot of trouble staying out of the box today, and it was especially troubling considering the personnel that wound up in the box. Nolan Patrick, one of their better defensive forwards, took a bad tripping call while on the power play. Travis Sanheim, who’s been a solid two-way defender all year, was called for a holding the stick infraction. And two of the Flyers’ top penalty killers in Kevin Hayes and Ivan Provorov were both sent to the box for cross-checking and tripping each on David Pastrnak. Philadelphia was lucky enough to kill every Boston power play in this one but that isn’t exactly a recipe for success, especially in the position this team is currently in.
The Flyers will have a very quick turnaround and will face the lowly Buffalo Sabres tomorrow afternoon at 2:00pm ET at Wells Fargo Center as they look to build on today’s win and try to claw their way back into the playoffs. Today’s game was a must-win in itself since Boston is clinging to the last playoff berth in the division, but tomorrow’s game will be just as important considering the struggles the Sabres have had this season. The Flyers will need to bring their A-game once again and take it hard to the Sabres to keep their season alive.