They wanted to prove that they’re a better team now than they were the last time the Boston Bruins visited the Wells Fargo Center.
And for much of Sunday afternoon, the Flyers did just that. But in the end, even some of their cleanest, fiercest hockey of the season wasn’t enough. They lost to the Bruins in a shootout, 4-3, on Reilly Smith's game-winning marker.
The Bruins, who have lost just once in their last 16 games, are simply a tough opponent. As strong as the Flyers looked at times on Sunday, they couldn’t take down their red-hot neighbors to the north.
Early on, though, it looked as though the Flyers might be able to escape with two points instead of just one. They drew blood first, when Vinny Lecavalier netted his 400th career goal at 5:25 of the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. All of the momentum was in their favor.
Ex-Flyer Andrej Meszaros tied the game midway through the period, but the Flyers kept their energy level high, putting as much traffic on Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask as they could. They were rewarded in the closing seconds of the period, when Kimmo Timonen knocked home an impressive pass from Jakub Voracek.
But, as happened the last time these two teams met, the Bruins owned the second period. Zdeno Chara scored first on the power play, and Patrice Bergeron’s marker at 11:05 of the middle stanza gave the Bruins the lead for the first time in the game.
The Flyers’ energy picked up in the third period, when they peppered Rask with shots – finishing with 17 compared to the Bruins’ six – and were rewarded when Lecavalier scored with just 25 seconds left in regulation.
Another day, another goal for Lecavalier. The Flyers’ veteran center scored his second goal in two games in the first period to give the Flyers an early 1-0 lead. Whereas his last goal was scored on the power play, Lecavalier slapped home his 400th career NHL goal Sunday afternoon on his new line, the Flyers’ fourth line with Adam Hall and Zac Rinaldo.
"It means a lot,” Lecavalier said. “Obviously, when I came into the league, I never thought I would get there. I'm very proud of this accomplishment but now it's over and I have to move on.”
It was a familiar name and face that tied the score 1-1 in the second period, when ex-Flyer Meszaros was allowed to walk, unbothered, into the Flyers’ zone and beat Steve Mason. Curiously, both the Bruins and the Flyers were able to set up in each other’s zones often early in the game.
For 16 minutes in the first period, the Flyers and Bruins played clean, seamless penalty-less hockey. And then the gloves came off. Rinaldo and Jarome Iginla tangoed late in the opening period, with each player getting a five-minute fighting major. And for what it’s worth, Rinaldo got the best of Iginla in the fight. He landed two rough, clean punches.
Penalty kill, killed
Heading into Sunday’s game, the Flyers had successfully killed off 36 of their last 37 penalties – an impressive feat, considering they had faced some of the NHL’s best power play units in recent weeks. That came to an end against the Bruins, though, with Chara’s second-period goal that came during a hooking penalty to Adam Hall.
The Flyers were arguably the better team through the first period – despite the rather even chances and time in each team’s zone. But once the referees became involved and the game’s flow got a bit interrupted in the second, the momentum began to go in the Bruins’ direction. That was capped off midway through the period, when Patrice Bergeron scored to give the Bruins their first lead of the afternoon.
The 5 on 3
The Flyers were given a huge 5-on-3 opportunity early in the third period, when both Dougie Hamilton and Zdeno Chara were sent to the penalty box. And yet, they couldn’t make it count. The Flyers are now 2 for 14 in 10:50 of 5-on-3 time this season after a stretch of 1:47 Sunday that could have helped them regain the game’s momentum.