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Reeling Bruins try to put the wheels back on

by John McGourty /
PHILADELPHIA -- A week ago, the Boston Bruins were up 3-0 in their series against Philadelphia and making plans for their first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 18 years. Not any more.

After making it look easy in winning the first three games of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series, they've come up short three times in a row against the resilient Flyers. Wednesday's 2-1 loss at the Wachovia Center sent the series back to Boston for Game 7 on Friday night (7 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN, RDS, CSN-Philadelphia) with the Bruins wondering how to put the wheels back on what looked to be a runaway train that would roll over the banged-up Flyers.

"It's obviously been disappointing that we haven't been able to get that fourth win yet, but we can't let that get to us right now," said forward Milan Lucic, whose goal with 60 seconds to play gave the Bruins a chance to tie. "We've had three chances here so far and we haven't been able to do it. They've been playing well, so we have to find a way to break them down."

The players who met with the media echoed the same themes Wednesday night that were expressed after the 5-4 overtime loss in Game 4 and the 4-0 loss on home ice in Game 5: They need to get more shots on net. They need to create more screens in front of goalie Michael Leighton. They need to get more second chances, more rebounds. They need to stay out of the penalty box.

"We have to battle for spots, for position, and not get moved away," said captain Zdeno Chara, identifying the Bruins' No. 1 problem. "We really have to create battles in front."

The 2-1 loss in Game 6 was hardly a condemnation of the team or its strategy. It was easy for the Bruins to point to the game-winning goal in a 4-on-3 situation in which they claimed Flyers forward Scott Hartnell embellished by feigning an elbow to the head. They talked about shots hitting posts, including Patrice Bergeron's two-foot shot from Leighton's crease at 7:24 of the third period, or Michael Ryder's narrow wraparound miss earlier in the period.

The elbowing call against Daniel Paille that gave Philadelphia a two-man advantage (it became a 4-on-3 power play 12 seconds later when Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger was called for interference) rankled coach Claude Julien.

"Not to criticize but Paille puts us down 5-on-3 on what they called an elbow and in the replay, he didn't even touch (Hartnell)," Julien said. "There's a space between his arm and the guy's face. (Hartnell) puts his head back and the referees called it."

A bigger problem for the Bruins was the play of Leighton and his teammates. Leighton, who came within 60 seconds of a shutout in his first career playoff start, got a lot of help -- the Flyers blocked as many shots as he did, 30, and forced another 18 misses by clogging the shooting lanes. The Flyers defensemen, with the help of the forwards, kept the Bruins from getting to rebounds -- of which Leighton left precious few.

The result: Even though the Bruins carried the play for much of the night, they managed to get just one puck past a goaltender who had never started a Stanley Cup Playoff game.

"I thought we played very well for spurts," defenseman Dennis Wideman said. "We created some offense. They did a good job of keeping us on the outside. We have to try to get more shots through and get to the net a little better."

The shots that were going in for the Bruins earlier in the playoffs aren't finding the back of the net now, and the Bruins have looked out of sync in the last couple of games.

Miroslav Satan hasn't had a point since his center, David Krejci, got hurt in Game 4. He doesn't seem to have any chemistry with center Marc Savard, who gave the Bruins a big lift with his overtime goal in Game 1 in his first game back since his March 7 concussion. Savard had an assist in the Game 3 win and the Game 4 loss but none since shifting to Satan's line. Meanwhile, Ryder and Blake Wheeler are struggling and while Paille brings speed and energy to the line with Bergeron and Mark Recchi, nothing's happening there either.

Krejci's replacement, Trent Whitfield, had the Bruins' best chance in the first two periods.

The Bruins were down 1-0 when Mark Stuart went off for elbowing Claude Giroux at 11:02 of the opening period. Steve Begin stole a puck and headmanned a pass that sent Whitfield in alone on Leighton -- but Whitfield's shot was into the center of the goalie's sweater. Whitfield has 11 goals in 163 regular-season NHL games and none in 17 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

"You really wish that line would get rewarded with some goals with the work they put in there," Julien said. "They work so hard, they make good things happen but unfortunately they haven’t been rewarded with the goals and that’s the unfortunate part.

"I guess everyone on the bench was rooting for [Whitfield] to score that goal because he’s been a good soldier for us, he’s been working hard and waiting for his turn to get in there and did a great job to spring himself loose. That would have been a big goal for us.”

"It's obviously been disappointing that we haven't been able to get that fourth win yet, but we can't let that get to us right now.  We've had three chances here so far and we haven't been able to do it. They've been playing well, so we have to find a way to break them down." -- Milan Lucic
But it wasn't -- and now the Bruins have a day to find some answers before Game 7.

"It's not over until it's over," goalie Tuukka Rask said. "We just focused on the next game and wanted to get that fourth win when we were up 3-0. We won three straight, and now they won three straight, so it comes down to one game and it's going to be a huge game. I didn't think it was going to be (seven games), but anything can happen in the playoffs."

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