It could have been an “Oh no, not again” moment for Boston.
In the teams’ previous two meetings, Philadelphia had rallied for third period comeback wins. The Bruins were looking to avoid the series sweep.
To see a 2-0 lead evaporate was frustrating. To utilize a Coach’s Challenge on the play leading up to Simmonds’ tying goal — when it appeared that Michael Del Zotto’s skate was clearly offside on a rush into the Bruins’ zone — and have the call on the ice stand, was even more frustrating.
“That second goal of theirs was a bit of a frustrating one — we really felt it was offside, said Head Coach Claude Julien. “But then, at the same time, our guys just stayed focused and found a way to win.”
With just 1:54 left in the game, Brett Connolly deflected in a Zdeno Chara drive to break the tie and lift the Bruins to an important 3-2 win.
“That’s what I’m most proud of from our win — is how we didn’t let that deter us from what we wanted to do, and that was win the game,” said Julien.
The Bruins had eased into the game with two goals on their first two power plays, at one point out-shooting the Flyers 7-1.
Patrice Bergeron first notched his 19th goal of the season at 5:04 in, set up by Ryan Spooner and David Krejci. Brad Marchand followed that up on the ensuing man advantage with his 20th of the season that put him on a career-high five game goal streak.
Four straight penalties in the first 10 minutes of the second shifted the momentum the Flyers’ way.
Simmonds scored on the second power play opportunity, before the Bruins had to kill off two more penalties. Boston had put up a streak of 26 straight penalty kills before allowing the tally.
“It’s one of those where we said, no matter what the outcome is, let’s keep going forward, keep being on our toes,” said Bergeron. “We got back on our heels a little bit in the second and it hurt us, so I thought we did a good job of staying with it.”
Tuukka Rask helped the cause.
Originally a game-time decision, after being a last minute scratch against Columbus on Saturday, Rask was back to 100 perecent — and it showed.
He was sharp all night, especially on the penalty kill and in tight on the Flyers’ flurries of point-blank chances. He finished the night with 34 saves on 36 shots.
“He was good. He was unbelievable,” said Julien.
Rask wasn’t happy with the second goal he allowed — even if it could have been disallowed anyways.
He stopped a shot and tried to steer the rebound away to the corner, but the puck hit his stick and died on the ice. He would have liked to have that one back.
“He’s the one who’s not going to be happy with that, because his goal was probably to deflect that puck in the corner and it went right on the guy’s stick, so I think his intention was good, just the puck didn’t go there — but he made some big saves in tight,” said Julien. “They were crashing the net and they were jumping on those loose pucks and our D did a decent job, but Tuukka was even better.”
“Definitely would have been a much different game if he wasn’t playing,” said Marchand. “That’s why he’s such a big part of our team.”
Rask did everything he could to keep the Bruins in the game. Even with that allowed goal, they pushed through.
“We have enough guys that can send the right message there on the bench, and they did,” said Julien. “After that goal allowed, our guys just talked about, ‘Let’s go find a way to win this game’ and we did shortly after.”
Connolly was playing a strong all-around game in his first game back after being a healthy scratch. Even if he hasn’t fully found his groove, he fits well on the right wing with Marchand and Bergeron.
“Not only did he score the winning goal — I thought he was having a great game,” said Julien. “And even that last game [he played], he wasn’t a bad player and he did a lot of good things, so it was nice for him to come in.”
“Everybody was pretty happy for him that he got the winner. He deserved it, the way he played tonight. I thought he was strong along the walls and was making the right plays and being in the right place, so he worked hard and earned a big goal for us.”
Connolly immediately dropped to a knee and gave an emphatic fist pump after the deflection found its way past Michal Neuvirth.
“Obviously it’s been a frustrating little while. I’ve been getting lots of chances and getting some good opportunities, so to see that one go in, in such a big game right before All-Star Break, it’s obviously good to see it go in,” Connolly said with a slight smile. “I thought we were good again tonight, our line, so it’s just a matter of sticking with it.”
“I’ve said that for a while now. I’ve got to stick with it. Things can change in a hurry in this League. When you’re confident, you’re a different player, and when you see a puck go in the net, it’s a good feeling. So I was obviously very happy with that.”
“I thought Conns had a really good game,” said Marchand. “He won a lot of important battles on the wall and made a few really nice plays and did a great job battling in front of the net, and tipping that third one home. So it’s great to see he’s getting his confidence and we need him to score big goals like that.”
The win set the Bruins up for the second leg of their back-to-back at TD Garden on Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks in their final game before the NHL’s All-Star Break. The win also crept them up the standings in the Atlantic Division.
“I think the bottom line is, is every game’s a big game,” said Julien. “Hopefully by the end of [Monday night], we’re going to be a second place team.”
“But no matter what, we need to finish strong here. We’ve got one more game [Tuesday] and our goal is to leave on a winning note.”