|Daniel Paille throws a hit against the Flyers in Game 1. (photo: Getty)|
BOSTON – The day began with Marc Savard fighting to control his emotions. It ended with him allowing everything to come rushing forth in unbridled celebration.
The Bruins center played his first game since suffering a Grade 2 concussion as the result of a Matt Cooke cheap shot back on March 7. And while he may have wanted to play all day after waiting nearly two months for his chance to get back in the lineup, Savard finally put an end to Saturday’s opening game of the Bruins’ Eastern Conference semifinal against Philadelphia.
Savard scored on a shot from the right circle at 13:52 of overtime, lifting Boston to a 5-4 win in storybook fashion. After the goal, Savard made a mad dash over to the boards, tossing his stick into the stands and leaping up against the glass before being mobbed by his teammates.
“It’s been a whirlwind for me,” said Savard. “Obviously I went through a lot of tough days and I don’t know what happened. I felt like when they tied it and we went in the room I felt like, ‘Jeez, I think this is how it’s supposed to be right here.’ I mean, everybody played great tonight. I kept it as short as I could. Obviously I did a couple circles and then came back off. But when Wides (Dennis Wideman) pinched, Wides made a nice pinch there and kept it alive, I was just thinking, ‘As soon as this thing lands, I’m shooting it.’ And it found a way in.”
The capped an emotional day for Savard, who struggled to maintain his composure when his first shift 1:15 into the opening period was greeted by a lengthy standing ovation from the Garden faithful.
“To be honest, when I got out there, there was a little water in my eyes at first,” said Savard. “It was a nice ovation. I’ve loved playing here and that’s why I wanted to stay here. The crowd treated me great. My teammates were great with me all day. And I just wanted to fit in. (Bruins coach) Claude (Julien) did a great job of playing me perfect minutes.
"I felt, as the game went on, I got stronger and in overtime, I guess that’s what coaches do when they feel something. He put me between, or on the wing with Bergie (Patrice Bergeron) and Rex (Mark Recchi) for the last three shifts in overtime there. We created a lot of chances and found a way to get the winner.”
The Bruins ultimately found a way to win this one, but not before finding a way to squander three separate two-goal leads. That included a 4-2 advantage they held until 7:23 left in regulation. Mike Richards scored a power-play at that point to make it a one-goal game, then Daniel Briere undressed a pair of defenders to tie it with 3:22 to play.
Briere entered the Bruins zone alone on a rush that should have presented little danger, as both Wideman and defense partner Matt Hunwick were back on the play. But Briere split the two defenders, fought off their pokechecks to maintain control of the puck, then banged in his own rebound at the right post for the equalizer.
“He was coming down the middle and at first we were both waiting for him to dish one way or the other,” said Wideman. “And then he just took the middle. Hunwick poked the puck off his stuck three times. He poked it once and it hit his foot and went back on his stick. He poked it again and it went off his thigh and right back on his stick again. We’ve got to take the body there, but when you poke the puck off his stick you don’t think it’s going to keep coming back to his stick like that.”
The Bruins appeared to be reeling, with Philadelphia having taken control of all the momentum. It was much like when Boston rallied from two goals down in the third in Game 4 against Buffalo, then carried that momentum on to a double-OT victory.
But the Bruins didn’t let the Flyers carry any momentum over to this sudden-death session. Boston dominated early, creating multiple chances in the first few minutes, only to be foiled repeatedly by Philly goalie Brian Boucher (Woonsocket, RI). The Bruins didn’t get frustrated though. Instead they kept pressing the attack.
And after Tuukka Rask (32 saves) came up with one huge save in overtime with a pad stop on a Daniel Carcillo breakaway, the Bruins finally broke through with Savard’s tally during a delayed penalty call on the Flyers.
“Well, any time a guy steps into your lineup and hasn’t played in two months and scores an overtime winner, you got to take it certainly with a smile,” said Julien. “And you know, Marc’s got a good shot. Sometimes doesn’t shoot often enough, but when he does, he certainly can do some damage. And it was the right time. We had a delayed penalty called against him and he just threw it at the net, and great shot and great way to finish.”
It was just the second shot of the game for Savard, but the rest of the Bruins weren’t shy about firing pucks on net, peppering Boucher with 46 shots. Nearly a third of those came in overtime, when the Bruins outshot the Flyers 15-4.
“We were staying pretty patient and were confident we could do it,” said Bergeron. “Obviously we had a lot of chances. Sometimes it can hurt you when don’t score, but we stayed pretty positive and we were confident we could get it done.”
The Bruins also came out firing early, jumping out to a 2-0 after one period. Steve Begin scored the first just 2:39 in, playing on the top line with Bergeron and Recchi after Marco Sturm went out with an apparent right leg injury on the game’s first shift. Bergeron then made it 2-0 at 12:54 and the Bruins looked poised to turn this one into a rout.
But the Flyers had an answer every time the Bruins tried to pull away. Ryan Parent put Philly on the board early in the second before Miroslav Satan continued his strong postseason by putting Boston back up by two.
Chris Pronger cut it to one goal again late in the second on the power play before David Krejci made it a two-goal lead for the third time at 7:25 of the third. This time, the Flyers came all the way back with goals by Richards and Briere, but they had no chance for a final rally after Savard’s sudden-death tally.
“Like I said, people are saying you couldn’t have scripted it better,” said Julien. “I think it was nice to see him get that. It’ll be great for his confidence. It’s a great way to come back in the lineup. If somebody was going to score and it happened to be him, it makes for, I guess, some good writing, doesn’t it?”
Douglas Flynn can be reached at email@example.com.