PHILADELPHIA -- The Boston Bruins knew they had a beastly schedule in March, with 17 games in 30 days, including five sets of back-to-back games.
Just surviving that stretch with a strong spot in the standings was the hope.
Hope turned into a reality better than anyone in the Bruins organization could have scripted, as their 4-3 shootout win Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers ran their March record to 15-1-1.
"Nobody could ever imagine," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It's been a real good month for us. If you check our schedule, we've had a lot of back-to-back games. That's where I give our guys a lot of credit."
Sunday saw the Bruins' Reilly Smith score in the fifth round of the shootout to clinch the win.
The victory also was the Bruins' club-record ninth straight away from home, and gave them a three-point lead on the St. Louis Blues in the race for the Presidents' Trophy, as well as an 11-point bulge on the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Flyers did their best to make it two points rather than one. Trailing 3-2 after two periods they outshot the Bruins 17-6 in the third period, but it took until the final minute of regulation for them to be rewarded. Boston's Loui Eriksson tried to skate it out of the zone, but Timonen whacked it off his stick at the blue line. The puck bounced past Bergeron and then Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk whiffed on a clearing attempt. It slid to Voracek, and when Rask came out to play the angle, Voracek sent the puck through the crease to Lecavalier, who tapped it into an open net to tie the game with 24.1 seconds remaining.
The Flyers continued to force the play in overtime, outshooting the Bruins 5-1 in the five-minute session.
While the Flyers are left to lament what could have been, the Bruins are looking forward to two days before they play next, Wednesday at the Detroit Red Wings.
"It'll be nice," Bergeron said of the time off. "It's not over, but it's been going pretty good. It'll be nice to go home and have a day off."
As well as Bergeron is playing, he'd probably like to keep going. His goal midway through the second gave him one in seven straight, tied for the third-longest streak in team history.
The score was 2-2 when Bergeron's spin-and-fire shot from the left circle appeared to surprise Mason as it zipped under his pads.
"I knew that Marchy [Brad Marchand] was in front of the net there and I tried to get it there," Bergeron said. "I got a lane after I spun there and I was trying to get it there. I'm sure I surprised him."
"He wasn't looking at the net when he shot it and I was already down," Mason said. "When he got out to a certain point I started getting back up, and as I was getting back up he shot the puck and I wasn't able to get back down in time. But that's a save I've got to make."
The goal was Bergeron's 27th, and with seven games left he's close to his second 30-goal season. Combine that with his plus-36 rating, and Bergeron is having a season worthy of a second Frank J. Selke Trophy for best defensive forward in the League; he previously won the award in 2012.
"It's pretty amazing because he takes a lot of pride in his defensive game, but he's now really contributing offensively," Chara said. "You can see that a lot of the shots and chances he gets, he usually puts them in. Really nice move in the shootout. For a guy who plays against top lines and is able to put up the numbers offensively too, it shows that he for sure is a Selke guy to me."
Julien said he's liked how Bergeron, at 28 and in his 10th season, has evolved into a vocal leader.
"He first started as more of a quite leader," Julien said. "He's become more vocal and more of a presence in the room, where before he used to let his actions speak for itself. Now he's more of a dressing-room leader, speaks up when it's time to speak up. It's been a good asset for a guy like Zdeno who has been a great captain. You surround yourself with good people like that and then you've got yourself a pretty good leadership group."
Knowing the Bruins were playing one day after a 4-2 win at the Washington Capitals, the Flyers came out fast and took a 1-0 lead on Lecavalier's goal 5:25 into the game, the 400th of his career.
Lecavalier is the 90th player in League history with 400 goals and the eighth active. It also was his second in as many games since being shifted to the fourth line.
"Wherever I'm going to be put I'm going to do my best, but with [Adam] Hall and [Zac] Rinaldo I think the chemistry was definitely there," Lecavalier said. "We were finding each other. We were making some good plays at the net. I love playing with them."
Mezsaros, a former Flyer, tied the game at 10:43, scoring his second goal in nine games since Philadelphia traded him to the Bruins on March 5. But the Flyers regained the lead with 41.7 seconds left in the first when Timonen scored his fifth goal of the season off a spectacular cross-ice pass from Voracek. Off the rush, he made a backhand pass under the stick of Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton and between the skates of Boychuk to Timonen, who was pinching in from the far side of the ice and one-timed a shot past Rask.
After goals by Chara and Bergeron put the Bruins ahead, the Flyers had ample chances to tie it up early in the third, including a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:47. But they managed one shot on goal and had two other attempts blocked.
"Not enough shots," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "That's basically it. I didn't think we shot the puck enough. I think we passed it around too much and we didn't shoot."
Despite the one point the Flyers were happy with their effort.
"At this time of year sometimes it doesn't matter, the result, it's just how you feel as a team, how you played as a team, and I think we're pretty happy with how we played," Giroux said. "Obviously we wanted that other point, [but] at the end of the day we're pretty happy with the effort."
The Bruins were as well, and now they can go home and recharge the batteries for a few days.
"It was an extremely busy month, game-wise and the travel wasn't easy," Chara said. "... We've just got to look ahead, but now when you look back it was a pretty fun month for us as far as putting up some wins together and finding ways to win games."
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
|Vincent Lecavalier (17) ASST: Adam Hall (3)|
1 - 0 PHI
|Andrej Meszaros (7) ASST: Brad Marchand (23), Dougie Hamilton (18)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Kimmo Timonen (5) ASST: Jakub Voracek (34)|
2 - 1 PHI
|PPG - Zdeno Chara (17) ASST: Jarome Iginla (31), David Krejci (47)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Patrice Bergeron (27) ASST: Reilly Smith (29), Matt Bartkowski (17)|
3 - 2 BOS
|Vincent Lecavalier (18) ASST: Jakub Voracek (35), Kimmo Timonen (27)|
3 - 3 Tie
|1||V. Lecavalier||P. Bergeron|
|2||C. Giroux||B. Marchand|
|3||M. Raffl||J. Iginla|
|4||M. Read||D. Krejci|
|5||J. Voracek||R. Smith|
|Power Play %||17.8%||23.4%|
|% on Road||14.7%||18.6%|
|% at Home||21.2%||28.0%|
|Zac Rinaldo Fighting (maj) against Jarome Iginla|
|Jarome Iginla Fighting (maj) against Zac Rinaldo|
|Kevan Miller Hi-sticking against Sean Couturier|
|Adam Hall Hooking against Loui Eriksson|
|Chris Kelly Interference against Wayne Simmonds|
|Scott Hartnell Hooking against Gregory Campbell|
|Dougie Hamilton Hooking against Jakub Voracek|
|Zdeno Chara Delaying Game-Puck over glass|