Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said after Game 2 that the pressure was on the Boston Bruins to head home to the TD Garden and win Game 3.
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Laviolette may have been right, but if so, the pressure failed to get to the Bruins as Boston dominated the Flyers in all facets of the game en route to a 5-1 victory and a commanding 3-0 series lead.
On the surface, it’s eerily similar to last season, as the Bruins and Flyers were in the same position 12 months ago. This year’s series feels different, however. Last year, the series was much tighter over the first three games. The 2011 version has seen Boston come away with two blowout victories and the Flyers give an inconsistent effort.
“I think, all playoffs, we’ve done a really good job of putting 60 minutes together,” Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. “Obviously, Philly had us momentum-wise in the third period (of Game 2), but I think the effort has been there the whole time.”
“There is more of a sense of urgency,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said when comparing this season to last year. “It seems like everyone is more willing to do anything they can to help the team win. You can see it in the guys’ eyes when you’re walking around before the game. It’s a great sign, a great feeling.”
Boston fed off the pregame focus and quickly established itself as the dominant team on the ice. Zdeno Chara opened the scoring just 30 seconds into the contest with a blast from the top of the left faceoff circle. David Krejci extended the lead to 2-0 with only 1:03 having ticked off the clock. That forced Laviolette to call his timeout, similar to what he had to do in Game 7 last season. However, unlike last year, the Bruins failed to relinquish the lead.
“Whenever a coach calls a timeout or pulls his goalie, most of the time it gets an instant reaction from that team,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “So, I just told our guys that the next rotation, the four lines had to have a great shift and not panic.”
The Flyers skated much better after the quick respite, but Boston also maintained its physical play and continued to pressure goaltender Brian Boucher, who made 16 saves on 20 shots before being replaced by Sergei Bobrovsky with 4:46 left in the second period. Bobrovsky stopped seven of the eight shots he faced.
One player who led the charge for the Bruins was right-winger Nathan Horton, who had a goal, an assist and a fight to complete the Gordie Howe hat trick. For a skater with no postseason experience entering this season, he’s built himself quite the impressive playoff resume.
“Nathan was awesome,” Thornton said. “He’s shown that all year. When he plays with an edge, he’s a hell of a hockey player. He’s had that all playoffs. A lot of guys feed off of him.”
“He’s been skating well right now,” Marchand said of Horton. “He’s such a big guy and such a good power forward. He’s all over the place giving the team momentum and energy, and that’s what we need from guys like that. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.”
On Friday night, Horton may take the Bruins somewhere the team hasn’t been since 1992 when Rick Bowness was behind the bench: The Eastern Conference finals. If Boston gets there, history won’t be made. It will be forgotten.