January 1, 2010

Late rally makes for Classic finish

With the Green Monster looming as a backdrop, Philly gets on the board. (photo: Getty)

BOSTON – The Bruins had 38,112 reasons to dig down for a little something extra.

The problem was that they were down to less than three minutes to find it.

The Bruins had spent the first 57 minutes and 42 seconds wondering just how loud a baseball field filled with hockey fans would get if they could just find a way to put one puck in the net.

“It did creep into our minds, because it crept into mine,” said coach Claude Julien. “I looked at the clock and said, ‘Geez, we need a goal here. Nothing worse than leaving Fenway with that many fans here and not knowing how they would have reacted had you scored.

“That went through my mind, but at the same time it also pushed us to get that goal,” continued Julien. “We needed to find a way to score that goal and keep pushing, and we found out that way.”

When Mark Recchi finally tipped in a pass from Derek Morris with 2:18 to play in the third, they found out. The eruption from the stands that followed was worth the wait, as the Bruins tied Philadelphia to force overtime, then took home the victory on Marco Sturm’s overtime tally for a dramatic 2-1 win in the Winter Classic before a sellout crowd at Fenway Park.

“You can’t get better fans than in Boston,” said Bruins forward Shawn Thornton. “It helps. It really does. People say we can’t hear them, but we hear them when stuff like that happens.”

The Bruins rode that wave of emotion into the extra session, when Sturm scored from Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara at 1:57 to truly spark a memorable celebration in a park that’s seen its share of dramatic finishes. Those usually came in the summer or occasionally the fall in the form of a Red Sox walk-off win. A sudden-death overtime victory is hockey’s answer, and the Bruins reveled in their skate-off win.

“That’s actually a good comparison,” said Bergeron. “That’s the only way we can end like this. You can’t ask for a better outcome than an overtime win, just feeling the energy from the crowd. You could see us on the ice, we were so excited and that was because of the crowd.”

No one was more excited than Sturm. “That’s probably what I dreamed of this morning,” said Sturm. “I think every player dreams of scoring in overtime, especially in a game like this.

“I’ll definitely take that goal,” added Sturm. “It’s probably going to be my most memorable goal ever, and I’m going to enjoy it.”

There wasn’t a lot for the home fans to enjoy early on in this one. Boston fell behind 1-0 in the second when Tim Thomas let his emotions get the best of him. After Flyers forward Scott Hartnell had crashed the net, upending the Bruins netminder as they bumped at the edge of the crease, Thomas went out to cross-check Hartnell in the back the next time he came within range.

The problem was that the Flyers still had possession of the puck when Thomas went to do that, and Danny Syvret’s shot sailed into the suddenly open net for a 1-0 lead at 4:42. Syvret still hasn’t scored a goal in an NHL rink – the tally was his first in 44 career games – but he was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of Thomas’ miscue on the big stage outdoors.

“He basically ran me over and I ended up in a vulnerable position,” said Thomas, who stopped the other 24 shots he faced. “I retaliated but I just happened to be retaliating at the same time someone else was shooting.”

Shooting was something the Bruins didn’t do enough of in the first two period, putting just 15 shots on Philly netminder Michael Leighton, who had gone 154:07 without letting up a goal before Recchi finally connected, allowing the crowd to finally explode in celebration.

“It was awesome,” said forward Steve Begin of the fan support. “We needed that. The first 40 minutes we didn’t play the way we should have. We didn’t play with the energy we should have, so we were lucky. But we found a way to play with some energy and get the two points.”

Thornton agreed. “We knew weren’t good enough, and I don’t know the reason why. We did what we could in the third period and guys laid it all out there and that’s exactly what we needed to do. Obviously the first two periods I’ll try to forget about until the next video session and enjoy this win for the next couple days.”

Thornton provided the one big highlight in the opening period when he dropped the gloves with Flyers tough guy Daniel Carcillo. It was the first fight ever in a Winter Classic game, a fact Thornton was well aware of, though he denied it was why he shed the mitts so quickly.

“It wasn’t about that, honestly,” said Thornton. “He was out there and he asked a couple of other guys. I don’t think it’s anybody else’s job to have to do that. So I went and obliged, I guess you could say. So yeah, it’s the first one, as you guys have reminded for the past six months. Now it’s happened we can stop talking about maybe.”

Not likely. The bout still had fans and teammates alike buzzing long after the game. Even though Carcillo appeared to get the upper hand with a right that dropped Thornton to end the fight, the Bruins – like the crowd – fed off the energy generated by the bout, which was reminiscent of a more typical Bruins-Flyers clash.

“I think that fight was the closest thing to a regular game,” said Bergeron. “I think that Thortie did that to get us going and it did.”

It just take a little longer for things to really get going. But for those 38,112 on hand, it was worth the wait.

“It’s not always going to go the way you want, but we believe in ourselves,” said Morris. “We believe in our team. We wanted to win the game for the fans. We really appreciate them. They were so good in supporting us, we really wanted to get this win for them.

“It was exciting,” added Morris. “I don’t think the home team had won one yet, so we wanted to go out there and give them something to remember.”

No worries there. No one’s going to forget this one.

Douglas Flynn can be reached at dflynn@hockeyjournal.com.