Devastating Stretch-Drive Defeat
In recent history, the Boston Bruins have made a habit of delivering dagger-to-the-heart defeats in the stretch drive to the Philadelphia Flyers. On the outside of the playoff bubble, the Flyers have repeatedly seen winnable games against Boston turn into regulation or overtime losses due to third period mishaps. History repeated itself at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.
March 7, 2015: The Flyers entered the game four points behind the Bruins in the Eastern Conference wildcard race. Philadelphia held a 2-1 lead late in regulation when Wayne Simmonds was called for a tripping penalty with 2:03 left on the clock. Attacking on a 6-on-4 power play with an empty net behind them, the Bruins pulled even on a Brad Marchand power play goal with 15 second left on the clock. Marchand scored again in overtime, sending the Flyers down to a 3-2 defeat. Instead of being two points behind Boston, the Flyers slip to five points out with the Bruins holding two games in hand and a tiebreaker advantage. Philly never recovered in the chase.
March 17, 2017: Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning's inadvertent own goal on a routine flip shot by Boston's Drew Stafford in the final 5.6 seconds of regulation sent Philadelphia down to a gut-wrenching 2-1 loss. The regulation defeat in a must-win game left the Flyers seven points below the playoff cutoff line after entering the day with a chance to cut the gap to three points.
April 5, 2021: The Flyers entered the game three points behind the Bruins in the battle for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division. The Bruins were forced to start 22-year-old prospect goaltender Jeremy Swayman -- who has less than 10 games of American Hockey League experience thus far -- due to injury (Tuukka Rask), COVID-19 protocol (Jaroslav Halak) and the schedule crunch of being in a 3-in-4 gauntlet (Dan Vladar). The Bruins' also had to make No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy (upper-body injury) a late scratch and were already without defenseman Brandon Carlo.
The Flyers fell behind, 2-0, in the first period on even strength and power play goals by Patrice Bergeron. However, Philly wasted little time striking twice early in a dominant second period (24-7 shot on goal disparity in their favor, not including several near misses that didn't get on net). Travis Konecny fed Jakub Voracek for a goal at the net after a Jakub Zboril turnover. Shortly thereafter, Voracek fed across the ice Shayne Gostisbehere, who buried a shot from the right side to tie the game at 2-2.
In a tight-checking third period that stood in stark contrast to the second, the Flyers had a power play with a chance to take the lead. After missing connections on a scoring chance, the Flyers turned the puck over and yielded a 2-on-1. Gostisbehere, the lone defender back, failed to take the pass away from defenseman Jeremy Lauzon to the deadly Marchand. At the bottom of the right circle, Marchand faked a shot and then moved left. Flyers goalie Carter Hart opened up as Marchand moved and Marchand tucked the puck through the five-hole to put the Bruins ahead, 3-2.
This was yet another devastating turn of events for the Flyers in a virtual must-win against the Bruins during the stretch dive. Bergeron went on to complete a hat trick into an empty net for a 4-2 final.
First and foremost, the Flyers special teams let them down again. Boston is an astounding 10-for-20 on the power play in seven games against the Flyers this season. Making matters worse, the entire sequence of the Marchand game-winning shorthanded goal could scarcely have been executed worse by Philadelphia.
Lauzon has scored two goals in 57 career NHL games to date. Take your chances with HIM shooting on Hart from the left slot rather than yielding a pass across to the ultra-dangerous Marchand, who has all sorts of dekes and moves he scores on when one-on-one with a goalie.
Right before the Bergeron power play goal, Scott Laughton (who had two separate breakaways plus a point-blank look from the lower right slot during the game) was denied on a backhanded try on a shorthanded breakaway. His earlier breakaway saw him miss over the net. Moments later, the puck bounced past Ivan Provorov and the Bruins had a 2-on-1 which Hart did stop. The Bergeron power play goal saw him score off the rush from the slot after eluding Kevin Hayes and receiving a pass from David Pastrnak. It was a quick release, but a stoppable shot that leaked into the net between Hart's pads.
When all was said and done, the Flyers saw their modest standings gain from Monday's overtime win in Boston erased with a gut-wrenching regulation loss at home the next night. The Bruins, who still hold two games in hand on the Flyers, are now five points up in the standings and further strengthened their tiebreaker edge.
In short, the Flyers are in deep, deep trouble just as they were after point(s) within their grasp slipped through their fingers in those fateful March 2015 and March 2017 games against the Bruins. For more, see the Postgame 5
on the Flyers' official website.