BOSTON – The two longest tenured Boston Bruins players led the way to snap a slump of almost unprecedented length during coach Claude Julien's tenure behind the Bruins' bench Saturday.
Patrice Bergeron scored the game-winning goal in the shootout and Tim Thomas came up with a big save on Daniel Briere in the post-overtime extravaganza to supplement his 27-save performance in regulation and overtime as the Bruins downed Philadelphia 3-2 at TD Garden.
The victory snapped Boston's first four-game regulation losing streak since January 18-29, 2010.
"We realize that when we play for the whole game and we keep putting pressure, we keep working hard and we keep staying with it, and we're not getting down on ourselves, we all find a way to get on top of it and to get a win," said Bergeron, who added an assist in regulation. "It's a perfect example and it's a huge statement game for us and we've got to obviously build from it. It's only one game."
Boston won the shootout, 3-2, capped by Thomas' glove save on Briere. As part of Thomas' solid 65 minutes of play before the shootout, the defending Vezina Trophy winner stopped a Jaromir Jagr breakaway. Thomas said he tried to use the same approach from that save in the shootout, but that didn't work out, as Matt Read and Claude Giroux both scored to match goals by Boston's David Krejci and Tyler Seguin.
"So after the second [Philadelphia goal], it was great to see our [goals] keep going in. And after the second one, I kind of changed what I do," said Thomas. "I came way out on Briere ... I think almost to the hash marks, just trying to give him a different look and tried to make him think what the heck's he doing."
After stopping Briere, Thomas celebrated with a dramatic fist pump. It was a release of both joy over earning a hard-fought two points against a bitter rival and also a sign that the frustration of Boston's recent skid – Thomas allowed 15 goals in the four games – was conquered.
"Sometimes I like to visualize what it's going to feel like when you win right before the shootout, actually," said Thomas. "Today I started to do that and then I was like ‘no, I'm not going to let myself, I'm just going to stay calm because I don't want to get too far ahead of myself.' And then I thought, ‘well, when you win you might not even be excited then.' But I was wrong. When I made the save, it was exciting. We needed those two points and we needed to leave the arena with a good feeling real bad."
Everything was different about this game for the Bruins, not just the result. For the first time in eight games Boston scored first. And for the first time in six contests, the Bruins took a lead to the third period. Chris Kelly got the game rolling for Boston at 6:23 of the first period, when he buried a rebound of a Benoit Pouliot shot.
Tyler Seguin doubled Boston's lead before the first period was through. Bergeron skated from the corner to behind the net and set up Seguin's goal from in front at 17:07.
The Flyers started slow. It took them more than nine minutes to record their first shot on goal and they were outshot in the first period, 11-7. Matt Read finally got Philadelphia flying with a power-play goal on a tip-in at 9:16 of the second.
Another tip-in, this time by Jakub Voracek, eluded Thomas with 4:17 remaining in regulation to even the score at two.
"Well we knew they were going to be desperate. They haven't been playing too well as of late. They haven't been getting many wins. We knew they were going to come out with a big effort," said Philadelphia forward Scott Hartnell about overcoming a slow start. "They smoked us that first half of the game but we decided to play, we decided to keep it simple, get it behind them, and towards the end of that game we tired them out and we had a lot of chances even to win in regulation. They had some breaks ... a big point for us though."
A few of those chances to win in regulation came during a final-minute shooting gallery in the Boston end. Thomas came up with a couple big saves and a couple shots just weren't on target. Despite blowing a late lead, the Bruins hung on for the first point before the heroics of the shootout.
"I wasn't sure of the clock exactly. I knew we were getting down towards the end of the game. I just didn't want bad luck to strike again," Thomas said. "We really needed the point. At that point, we're just playing for one point, just to make it to overtime. And you don't want a real good effort like that go to waste. So I was just focused on making it through the end. I didn't know if there was 30 seconds or a minute left."
Considering Boston's desperation for two points, Bergeron could've struggled with the magnitude of the moment when he stepped up with the shootout tied at two. Instead he beat red-hot Philadelphia goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov high to the stick side.
"I didn't feel it. I like those situations," Bergeron said. "It's the type of situation where if you're playing hockey, that's what you want. And I wanted to obviously win it for a team."