Savard returns, wins Game 1 for Bruins
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BOSTONIt sounds so cliche, but you really couldn’t have scripted it any better.
Here was Marc Savard, in his first game back since suffering a Grade II concussion seven weeks ago, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Throwing his stick jubilantly into the air and setting off a sea of black and gold bedlam among the teammates who have missed his presence on the ice and in the locker room.
“I don’t know what happened,” Savard said. “I felt that when they tied it up and we went into the room, I just felt like this is how it is supposed to be right here.”
When the Flyers and Bruins last met on March 11, Savard was four days removed from the elbow shot by Penguins tough guy Matt Cooke. Savard was at home, unable to watch because the bright lights of the television screen gave him headaches.
Now, under the spotlight of the biggest series of his career, the Bruins forward showed his own flair for the dramatic. It was Erik Cole suiting up for the Hurricanes after getting drilled by Brooks Orpik. It was Paul Kariya’s goal on the very next shift after Scott Stevens knocked him out cold during the 2003 Stanley Cup finals.
“People are saying you couldn’t have scripted it better. I think it was nice to see him get that,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “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?”
It wasn’t just the Savard goal, but the 30-second standing ovation by the 17,565 at TD Garden, a moment he acknowledged nearly made him choke up. It was the way Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher, brought in off the scrap heap, stood on his head to confront wave after wave of pressure during the overtime period, with Kimmo Timmonen lying across the goal crease at one point to stop anyone in a scrum from being able to push the puck over the goal line.
And it was a pair of clubs that teetered on the brink all season long trying to salvage this Game 1 and the momentum it carried, both the Bruins in blowing a two-goal lead, a deficit they managed to come back from in two of their four victories against Buffalo, and the Flyers, who, after a nine-day layoff, tried to battle back from an opening 20 minutes they’ll regret for the next 48 hours.
“I don’t know if it’s a layoff or it is just getting back that sense of the game,” Chris Pronger said. ”The urgency that you need to have. Obviously, as the game went on, we got better and we started to play within our system and play the way we can. We can take a lot of that and use it for Game 2.”
By the time Philadelphia was able to control the pace of play, pushing the puck into the attacking zone with consistency and piling up chances on Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, it was an uphill climb. One that seemed monumental when David Krejci took a Miroslav Satan blocked shot and beat Boucher to make the score 4-2 just over seven minutes into the third.
But the league’s most effective defense in terms of goals allowed showed the flaws that only a cloning machine and five more Zdeno Charas would fix. The much-maligned Dennis Wideman stamped his name over Philadelphia’s comeback, first by screening his own goaltender, which allowed Mike Richards to shoot the puck into a practically empty net and then by allowing Daniel Briere to slice between him and Matt Hunwick to tie the game with 3:26 to go.
In a series that has already been defined by its injuries, Marco Sturm became the latest casualty. Sturm, who netted the last overtime winner between the two clubs at Fenway Park on New Year’s Day, crashed into the boards trying to take down Matt Carle nearly two minutes into the game. Sturm went to the ice, unable to put any pressure on his right knee until he was assisted off with the help of Krejci and Patrice Bergeron.
It was Bergeron’s work on the draw that gave the Bruins a two-goal cushion over the first 20 minutes, beating Briere and pushing the puck back to Wideman at the right point for a shot that found its way through traffic, off the body of Boucher and on to Bergeron’s stick. The Bruins center, with his 58 percent faceoff percentage in 1,342 attempts, clearly overmatched Briere’s 120 total draws over the course of the season. Mike Richards' 1,314 and Blair Betts' 855 lead Philadelphia’s actives.
“Obviously, I know the tendencies of most of the guys on the ice,” Bergeron said. “I haven’t faced Briere too much, obviously, so I just had to worry about myself in the circle and win the draw.”
Ryan Parent made the score 2-1 just under eight minutes into the second period, and the Flyers nearly tied it a few minutes later when a Bruins turnover allowed Claude Giroux to walk in one-on-one with Rask, going to his backhand.
That save and the rush that followed set off the first scuffle of the series between the two clubs, Savard right in the middle of it with Daniel Carcillo and Mike Richards. The brouhaha lead to a Bruins power play, when Richards was given the extra minor that led to a Satan goal.
“Richards is a fierce competitor,” Savard said. “That’s part of the game. We had a couple of words for each other, but that’s part of he game.”
The Bruins' inexperience, with just one Stanley Cup winner on the ice, took its toll when Adam McQuaid was sent to the box on back-to-back penalties, the first of which led to the Flyers' second goal. Pronger made the score 3-2 on a rocket from the right point. Boston saw its streak of 20 straight power plays killed end.
But this day wasn’t about power plays, acclimation and inexperience. It belonged to Marc Savard. It was his moment.
At least for 48 hours and the opening faceoff of Game 2.