Forget about another historic comeback.
The Boston Bruins
put away the Philadelphia Flyers
in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series on Friday -- a task they could not accomplish last spring -- to sweep the best-of-7 series and move on to the final four of the Stanley Cup tournament for the first time since 1992.
"To be quite honest, as a player you hear all the talk about what happened last year and you have to ignore it to be able to do what we just did, winning this series," said Boston goalie Tim Thomas
, who made 22 saves Friday and stopped 142 of 149 Philadelphia shots in the series. "To be honest, I'm glad that it's over, I'm glad that it's done with. Because the longer that series would have went the more talk about last year. So I'm glad that is put behind us as a team, as an organization, and the fans -- I am glad the fans can put it behind them, too. And I'll say it, hopefully exorcised some demons."
Last spring, Philadelphia won Game 4 to stay alive and never lost again, becoming just the third team in Stanley Cup history to erase a three-game deficit and win a playoff series. Philadelphia even won Game 7 after Boston scored the game's first three goals.
This time, however, there was no escaping for the second-seeded Flyers. After a bitter overtime loss in Game 2, they never were in this series. They lost the two games in Boston that followed by identical 5-1 scores.
Now, Boston advances to the Eastern Conference Final, where they'll face a Tampa Bay team that knocked off the Washington Capitals and has won seven-straight games. The series will open here in Boston sometime next week.
The only downer for Boston on this night was an apparent injury to top center Patrice Bergeron
, who has 10 assists in 11 games. Bergeron was hit heavily by Philadelphia's Claude Giroux
early in the third period. Bergeron left the ice under his own power but did not return to the game.
For Philadelphia, the season ends short of its desired goal -- a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
"It is disappointing whenever you end the season on a loss," said Philadelphia captain Mike Richards. "I'm not sure where it went wrong. It's a slippery slope when you stop playing your brand of hockey. Give the Bruins a lot of credit. They played extremely well. We just didn't have an answer for it."
The Bruins played a suffocating brand of hockey for much of the series, never letting the high-powered Philadelphia offense get on track. On Friday, Boston limited the visitors to just 23 shots, their lowest total of the 2010 playoffs. Boston allowed Philadelphia to score just four goals in the final three games and only seven in the entire series.
Yet, with all that, Philadelphia was still in this game when the third period opened. The Flyers had a 1-1 tie thanks to a goal by Kris Versteeg -- scored against the run of play after a turnover by Brad Marchand
-- and were dictating play in the opening minutes of the third.
That is until Johnny Boychuk
floated a point shot past Philadelphia goalie Sergei Bobrovsky
off a faceoff win by Chris Kelly
at the 2:42 mark of the period for a lead the home team never would relinquish. Boychuk's shot may have ticked off the stick of Flyers forward Scott Hartnell
before it eluded a waving glove by Bobrovsky, who started for the first time since Game 2 against Buffalo in the first round.
Brian Boucher had started the first three games, but was relieved at some point in each contest.
"On that one it was kind of knuckling and it might have moved a little bit on him maybe," Boychuk said. "I'm not sure what happened."
Bobrovsky, the starter when these playoffs opened, made 22 saves Friday. He had little chance on Lucic’s power-play goal -- Boston's first 5-on-4 marker in the postseason -- in the first period and even less of a chance on Lucic's breakaway goal with 4:57 left in the contest.
Those goals were the first two of the postseason for Lucic, ending a frustrating 20-game drought that dated to March 22.
"It's been kind of frustrating, the last 20 games, not being able to put the puck in the back of the net," Lucic said. "But tonight I was able to get open, and when I got those opportunities, both great plays by (Nathan) Horton to set me up, and when I got the opportunities it was nice to step up and score big goals."
Boston used its disciplined game plan and a cast of rotating heroes in each game to vanquish the team that tormented them last spring, sending the Flyers into an unsettled summer.
"I'm not going to say the better team won, but the team that was playing better is moving on," said veteran defenseman Sean O'Donnell. "They are hitting on all cylinders right now. We put a good effort tonight, it just seems we weren't hitting on all cylinders."
As a result, Boston advances to the conference finals for the first time since 1992, a drought of epic length for a hockey-mad city like Boston. Friday night, the sold-out Garden crowd roared through the last five minutes of the game -- which featured Lucic’s second goal, as well as empty-net tallies by Marchand and Daniel Paille
-- to show their appreciation for what the Bruins had just accomplished, especially against a Flyers team that caused them all such heartache last spring.
"Well, I think they deserved it," Chara said when asked about the end-of-game party in the stands. "Obviously, it's a huge motivation for them. It's a big motivation for us. We know how they can get excited and they were obviously showing it throughout the whole first and second round. And I'm sure it's going to be even more now.
"But they deserve it. They've been waiting for quite a while and now they just can enjoy a few more games and another round."