|Marc Savard (left) and Matthew Carle battle for the puck. (photo: Getty)|
BOSTON – Claude Julien called it a “meltdown.” Mark Recchi labeled it a “poor effort.” Zdeno Chara described it as being “flat.”
By any characterization, it was one of the worst periods the Bruins have played in recent memory, and it proved extremely costly.
Boston took a 1-0 lead into the final frame of Monday night’s clash with a reeling Philadelphia club that had lost 10 of its last 12 games. But the Bruins never showed up for that third period. Instead, they sat back and let the Flyers take control, scoring three unanswered goals for a demoralizing 3-1 victory.
“I don’t know why in the third we did what we did,” said Recchi. “We wanted to keep them down. When there are teams that are struggling and they’re a number of points behind you and you want to keep them down there and keep moving forward yourself. It wasn’t a very good step for us.
“We played OK for two periods, then for the third period we stunk it up,” added Recchi. “It was a just a poor effort on our part.”
The Bruins started off the night well enough. They matched Philly hit for hit through a scoreless first period and overcame some dubious officiating that including waving off an early Vladimir Sobotka goal when referee Chris Rooney blew the play dead despite Sobotka stuffing it in at the right post.
Sobotka got his revenge late in the second. Shawn Thornton circled around behind the Philadelphia net and sent the puck out front, where Sobotka tipped it. The puck then deflected off Flyers forward Jon Kalinski’s stick and into the net to give Boston a 1-0 lead at 18:32 of the second.
The Bruins should have had all the momentum going into the third with a chance to put the Flyers away. Instead, the third was all Philadelphia. The Flyers outshot Boston 15-7 in the period, with former University of New Hampshire star James van Riemsdyk tying the game at 2:48, then Kimmo Timonen scoring a pair of goals to give the Flyers the win.
“It was one of those gut-check games,” said new Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette, a Franklin, Mass. native who earned his second win in his sixth game behind the Flyers bench. “We needed a win and I thought our guys went out and played a heck of a third period.
“It was a tough game, tough team, tough building,” added Laviolette, whose club is still just 15-15-1. “We showed up and played a hard hockey game, so you hope you can build off of it. But we’ve got a long way to go, a big mountain to climb to get back into this thing. But it is a start.”
The Bruins, who have now lost two straight after an 8-1-1 stretch, need to find a way to start over and regain their focus as they embark on a key road trip with games at Chicago, Toronto and Ottawa coming up.
“I was really surprised that we didn’t compete the way we need to compete,” said Recchi. “That’s just not like us, especially with a lead and in our home building. We’ve played well here. It’s disappointing that’s what ended up happening and the way we responded in the third. I hope that this gets our focus for the trip coming up.”
Philadelphia did benefit from some breaks. Not only was Sobotka’s first goal waved off, but there were a few questionable penalty calls and non-calls that played to the strengths of the always aggressive Flyers, who were buoyed by the return of agitator Daniel Carcillo from a four-game suspension. Carcillo led all players with eight hits and drew a pair of penalties while staying out the box himself.
“They were pushing. They were a desperate team,” said Thomas. “They’ve been struggling a lot lately and you know they have been talking about turning it around. They’ve got a new coach and all that stuff, so we knew they were going to push hard and it was our job to match that push for push, and we weren’t able to.”
Philly also caught a break when Timonen’s game-winner appeared to deflect off Blake Wheeler’s glove and past Thomas, who finished with 35 saves. But the Bruins weren’t willing to make excuses.
“You’ve got to keep pushing and keep competing,” said Recchi. “We just stopped competing. It wasn’t so much breaks it was that we just stopped competing and that’s not like us. We have to refocus before this trip. We’ve got a real tough trip ahead of us.”
Chara agreed. “I thought that in the third we were really flat for whatever reason,” said the Bruins captain. “We lost a number of battles in our zone. They were just, I think, more hungry than us.”
That’s something the Bruins can’t accept if they are to get back into the race for a top spot in the East. They fell further away from that goal as Buffalo has now built a four-point lead in the division after a 4-3 win over Montreal on Monday.
“I thought we were in control of the situation for the first two periods, even though we had some challenges on the way, some probably questionable penalties in situations” said Julien. “We had a disallowed goal, but we still had some pretty good control going into the third. I thought the third period was a meltdown. That is where we collapsed.”
At it might just be where the Flyers turned their season around – a third period on the Garden ice, under the watchful eye of a hometown boy.
“I love this building,” said Laviolette.
Douglas Flynn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.