PHILADELPHIA — Earlier this month, Claude Julien called upon Reilly Smith to send the Bruins home from Tampa Bay with a shootout win over the Lightning. That time, it worked.
On Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia, he went back to Smith once again, and once again, Smith delivered, notching the game-winning goal in the fifth round of the shootout to send the B’s back to Boston with a 4-3 win over the Flyers.
The win gave the Bruins a franchise-record nine consecutive road wins as well as points in their last 16 road games, another franchise best.
Boston has not lost in regulation since March 1, finishing the month with a stellar 15-1-1 mark.
“It’s been a real good month for us,” Julien said after the game, “and if you check our schedule, we've had a lot of back-to-back games, so that's where I give our guys a lot of credit.”
“Again, for us, it's game by game. We're not looking at [historical] records; those things are taking care of themselves just by our play. The thing that I have to say is outstanding is when you play 17 games in 31 days and you lose one shootout game -- that's pretty impressive for this group. They've stayed focused, they've stayed humble, they've stayed determined, so I'm pretty proud of the way we handled this month.”
The win also marked the 100th of goaltender Tuukka Rask’s NHL career, and he had to work hard to get it, making a career-high 49 stops on 52 shots.
“It's good — you know, not everybody gets even to that point, so I'm really happy that I got it,” Rask said of the milestone victory. “I’ve been part of a great winning team, so that always helps.”
As it always seems to be when these two teams face each other, it was a battle, and it started about five minutes into regulation, when Philadelphia’s Vincent Lecavalier put the Flyers on the board with a shot from the top of the slot that beat Rask, glove side.
The Bruins responded quickly, as Andrej Meszaros — returning to Philadelphia for the first time since the Flyers sent him to Boston at the trade deadline — fired a wrister from the slot that got past Steve Mason.
Still, when asked how sweet it was to beat the team that traded him, Meszaros said, “Even sweeter was the two points. We should have won it in regulation, but you have to give them credit. They really pushed us and they really worked hard.”
“They're a desperate team trying to make the playoffs, you know, and they did play well, but on the other hand, we got the two points. We had a tough game yesterday and coming into this building is always tough, and it was a character win.”
With 42 seconds left in the first period, the Flyers struck again, courtesy of Kimmo Timonen, to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
From then on, for the most part, the Bruins took over.
Zdeno Chara struck on the power play to tie the game five minutes into the second, and Patrice Bergeron scored a little over five minutes later, going five-hole on Mason to give the B’s the lead. Bergeron extended his goal streak to seven games, the longest of his career.
“He’s coming up big when we need him to come up big, and he's scored some big goals for us for quite a while now, and he's having a real good season,” Julien said. “Goal production is up, and his plus-minus is still where it is, one of the best if not the best in the league, so he's a great all-around player, and it's great to see those guys accomplish those things quietly and humbly. That's just the way that those guys are.”
“I should just keep putting it on net, I guess,” Bergeron said with a smile. “Like I said, it's one of those streaks where the puck's going in. I don't think I'm doing anything different — just try and keep playing my game at 200 feet and playing at both sides, and my linemates and everyone helping me, and we're pushing together.”
“No one's really looking at who's scoring; it's about winning, and it's fun like that.”
The work was far from over, though; one of the most important points of the game for Boston came three minutes into the third period, when Dougie Hamilton went to the box for hooking before Chara joined him 13 seconds later on the heels of a delay-of-game penalty.
“There's no doubt, we were running on fumes at the end, but we killed a 5-on-3, which was huge for us,” Julien said. “It could have definitely been a different outcome, but our guys just put it on the line and did what they had to do.”
Lecavalier struck again with 25 seconds remaining and an extra attacker on to send the game into overtime and an eventual shootout, but at that stage, the Black & Gold did the same thing they’ve done throughout this entire month: They found another way to win a game and get two points.
“This was our second game in two nights and playing two tough games, and they were waiting for us, ready,” Julien said. “Obviously they had a lot of motivation, and we were able to keep up. Our goaltender was the only guy that was fresh, which we obviously needed, but nonetheless, I thought our guys showed character in battling through all of this adversity and did a good job.”
“I think [we’re] just being smart, playing the system and not forcing plays,” Bergeron said. “I think every time we do that, we take what's there, we have success and we get the goals, and that's it.”
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