By Josh Mellits/DFP Staff
With 17 days until they meet in the Winter Classic, the Boston Bruins froze against the Philadelphia Flyers, allowing three unanswered goals in a 3-1 defeat at the TD Garden Monday night.
The third annual outdoor game will take place Jan. 1, 2010, and the Bruins (16-10-6) will have to wait until then to avenge their meltdown against a struggling Flyers squad (15-15-1)
“I think that if you want to win a hockey game, you have to play for 60 minutes, and we didn’t do that tonight,” Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara said. “There were parts of the game when we were just making uncharacteristic mistakes. I don’t know if it was fatigue or lack of effort –– there’s no excuse.”
Early in the first period, a goal by center Vladimir Sobotka was called off after the cage was dislodged. But an even bigger moment came with seven minutes remaining in the period, when the Bruins suffered back-to-back penalties to give the Flyers a two-man advantage.
Boston’s league-leading penalty kill kicked into gear, deftly robbing Philadelphia of the opportunity to strike first. In a stellar effort, defenseman Dennis Wideman blocked three shots and eventually had to leave the contest, though coach Claude Julien insisted “it had nothing to do with” the stops.
“That’s a big sacrifice,” Chara said. “That’s obviously huge, putting his body out there and blocking those shots. That’s one of the reasons why we killed it.”
The first two periods were marked by physical play and outstanding goaltending, as the lamps were dark for the first 38 minutes of the contest. Philadelphia goaltender Brian Boucher was first to crack, allowing Sobotka to redeem himself with a shot that just trickled into the net. That gave Boston the lead heading into the second intermission, a situation in which the team had not lost this season. Going into the game, the Bruins were also 11-1-0 when they scored first.
“When you score the first goal of a game, it’s usually a good sign,” Boston goalie Tim Thomas said. “But one wasn’t enough.”
It wasn’t enough because the game started to unravel in the third stanza. Less than three minutes in, Flyers rookie and University of New Hampshire alum James van Riemsdyk poked the puck into the net for his first goal since Nov. 18.
“We lost a race to a puck in the corner,” Julien said. “They had a guy drive the net and they just hit him with a pass to get that first goal. So again, lose that race, not just for the puck, but you also lose that race to get back to the front of the net, that guy tipped it in. So it’s about races and battles.”
About ten minutes later, Flyers defenseman Kimo Timomen unleashed a rocket from the top-center of the blue line. The puck curved into the top shelf of the net after a deflection off a player’s glove for the go-ahead goal before Thomas could even react.
“I picked it up late,” Thomas said. “From that far away, you’d like to be able to find it and get to it, but I wasn’t able to.”
The Bruins had one more chance with a minute left in regulation when Flyers winger Scott Hartnell gave a high-stick to former Flyer wing Mark Recchi, awarding the home team a two-man advantage with an empty net. But barely twenty seconds elapsed before Timonen added a tally from the other side of the ice to seal the game.
“He got me good,” Recchi said. “But you get ready –– we called the timeout to get an opportunity to get our setup and unfortunately we weren’t able to get it.”
The Bruins look to regroup and refocus with a tough road trip ahead to Chicago, Toronto and Ottawa, and especially with New Year’s Day circled on their calendar.
“I was really surprised we didn’t compete the way we needed to compete,” Recchi said. “That’s just not like us, especially with a lead in our home building –– we’ve really started to play well here. It’s disappointing that’s what ended up happening, the way we responded in the third, and I hope this gets us focused for our trip.”