In the grand scheme of things, it was a victory without reward for the Flyers. But from the Boston Bruins side of things, it could be a major headache.
The Flyers routed the Bruins, 5-2, on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center and may have done some serious spoiler damage to the Bruins, who are tied with Montreal with 59 points.
Boston had the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Montreal was the fourth seed.
Essentially, this was a game the Bruins needed to win to secure that seed.
“It’s almost something that is fun to do,” Simon Gagne smiled. “It’s not fun where we are at in the standings.
“There was a lot of expectations with [us] this year. Everything we’re doing right now maybe shows management what kind of team we will have next year.”
Goalie Steve Mason again looked sharp with 39 saves, while Jakub Voracek scored his 21st goal of the season.
Mason was making his fifth start in eight games. He had six critical saves in the final four minutes of the second period with the Flyers ahead 3-1 that made a statement.
“A team like that, they have some great offensive talent and myself, it was a great challenge,” said Mason, who is now 3-0-1 lifetime against Boston.
“We got [to] talk about the way the guys played, the goals they scored for us to respond.”
Coach Peter Laviolette said he wanted to “flip flop” Mason for Ilya Bryzgalov and not to read anything into Mason playing against Boston.
“He’s been pretty good for us since being here,” Laviolette said. “You start to see things in practice. You see his glove. He has a real good glove and that kills a lot of plays when there is no rebounds.
“You see his puck skills and his ability to move pucks out of our end or up to a defenseman or winger.
“His athleticism when he makes a save and gets over to another position to make a save. You start to see things in his game that are real positives.”
Mason got more goal support in the final period from Voracek and Gagne, sandwiched around a David Krejci goal.
“I’m not really looking toward next season yet,” Mason said. “I just want to finish off with a strong note.”
Mason had to be sharp, too, because the Flyers again played without another key defenseman, this time Kimmo Timonen, whose season is over with a foot injury (see story).
“Just part of the challenge,” Mason said. “Obviously, losing Kimmo is a huge loss. One of our top defensemen and on the power play. Guys are having ice time right now and doing a great job with it.”
Guys like Eric Gustafsson, who logged a team-high 23:56.
Backed by an emotional “Boston Strong” tribute to the city of Boston and its people (see story), it didn’t take the Flyers long to grab a lead on backup goalie Anton Khudobin.
“Yeah, of course, you know it’s been hard to see what’s been going on in Boston,” Voracek said.
“But it’s obviously a great thing that we kind of think about it and do what we did, you know. And it’s over and they did a great job with it.”
Not even two minutes into the game, Krejci threw a lazy puck off the board into the high slot.
Scott Hartnell all but tripped over it. He couldn’t believe how it was just sitting there. Hartnell roofed a high shot into the net for his eighth goal.
“What an emotional video to start the game,” Hartnell said of the Flyers' “Boston Strong” pregame video tribute. “We wanted to come out with a big start. It couldn’t have worked out better.
“I came on to the ice from a change and just kind of worked my way to the slot. I don't think their guy knew I was there. I was able to get the turnover and get a shot off.”
Three minutes later, the Bruins charged the net hard, making rather obvious contact with Mason.
They were in pursuit of Jaromir Jagr’s shot off Mason that Wade Redden put into the net to make it 1-1.
Redden, who was in the middle of that scrum, is fighting five other players to make the Bruins’ playoff roster.
The Flyers chased Khudobin for Tuukka Rask just before the midway point of the second period after two bad goals.
Khudobin left a fat rebound in the right slot for Matt Read at 11:24 to break the tie. Seven seconds later, another sloppy clear by the Bruins came back to bite them.
This time, former Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara cleared a dump-in from Oliver Laurdisen into the slot from behind the net and the puck went off his goalie’s stick into the net, which infuriated Khudobin.
Then Bruins coach Claude Julien pulled him.
“Awesome, absolutely awesome,” Lauridsen said of his goal. “I mean, it wasn't the dream goal but I'll take it. It was just a dump-in and a lucky bounce but it's my first NHL goal, so I'll take it.”
Now, the second half of that period saw the Flyers get rather sloppy, forcing their penalty killers out there for a brief five-on-three kill that they survived.
Actually, Mason was the reason for the survival. He has a 2.08 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in six overall appearances as a Flyer.
“His confidence is getting bigger and bigger every game,” Gagne said. “It’s something we were talking about on bench. You can see it every practice he is getting better. It’s tougher to score in practice on him. He was really solid for us again tonight.
“As a team, even if you are out of the playoffs, you want to get ready for next season. Show what you can do as a team. Right now, we like what we see from him.”