Flyers have the energy but still fall short

Posted: May 03, 2011

They were equally deafening, the roar of the fervent fans as this game began and the silence that fell when it suddenly ended.

It was a moment chillingly similar to the end of the Flyers' Stanley Cup dream last year, an overtime goal that no one seemed sure about. This time it was David Krejci of the Boston Bruins whose shot bounced off the back of the net so quickly, the referee never saw it.

This time, play continued until the next stoppage, and a video review confirmed the worst for the Flyers: Krejci scored, and the Flyers' must-win game was a loss.

The shot didn't end their season the way Patrick Kane's did, but it certainly blew a gaping hole in the Flyers' chances. They will pull into Boston Harbor listing badly and taking on water fast.

"The series isn't over," Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said, and that is technically true. The Flyers will surely tell themselves that this two-games-to-none deficit isn't as dire or as insurmountable as that 3-0 deficit in last year's second round.

But this feels different, and not just because the Flyers lost the first two games at home instead of in Boston. It feels different because the Flyers were truly terrible in Game 1 Saturday, a wretched effort that left them no margin for error Monday night. And it feels different because, after playing much better in Game 2, Krejci's shot went straight through the heart.

Put another way: If the Flyers couldn't win this game, in this atmosphere, they probably don't have much chance to win the series.

Players often talk about getting energy from the crowd. Sometimes, and Game 1 was a textbook example, something goes wrong with the wiring. Monday night, the circuit was complete. The odd combination of patriotic fervor and good old hockey passion produced an electrifying combination.

The roar that drowned out Lauren Hart's final note had barely faded when James van Riemsdyk fired the puck past Boston's Tim Thomas just 29 seconds into the game. Van Riemsdyk, who was a 12-year-old in central Jersey on Sept. 11, 2001, rode those "U-S-A, U-S-A" chants to a second goal before the first period was half-over.

The Flyers had the lead, the crowd, and the ghosts of 2010 on their side.

And then they didn't. The Bruins scored twice in 85 seconds to tie the game late in the first period.

It remained tied after two periods, thanks to a cameo appearance by rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

It was tied after three periods, because Thomas matched the Flyers' intensity and stopped 22 shots in 20 minutes. Regulation time ended with Danny Briere, the Flyers' opportunistic forward, staring at an open net. But his stick could not find the puck before the buzzer sounded.

By the time the puck dropped to start the overtime, that early rush of excitement and energy, of pride and passion, was a memory. It was replaced by the desperate need for the Flyers to get the single goal that would salvage this game and give them life in this series.

The stakes were that high. It made for a nice story line that these teams took part in a wildly entertaining second-round series last year. But that series was memorable precisely because the Flyers' comeback from a 3-0 deficit was so improbable. Falling behind by 2-0 at home to this team would be inviting a quick dismissal.

It was during that Boston series that the Flyers began believing they could win the Stanley Cup. Each win of the comeback was a shot of pure confidence. This overtime was a good test of whether this team could recapture that magic.

A funny thing happened. After getting sparked by the crowd three hours earlier, the Flyers reversed the flow of energy. Their intensity in the third period and overtime brought waves of sound and energy back from the crowd. The arena roof somehow stayed on, and Thomas somehow kept the puck out of the net.

A Bruins shot clanged off one post. Ville Leino's deflection ticked off another.

Then Krejci blasted that shot past Brian Boucher, and the arena went silent.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, who refused to talk about last year's series, suddenly invoked the memory in his postgame news conference.

"The pressure's on them," Laviolette said, adding: "We did it last year."

Last year, the Flyers took great solace in playing well against the Bruins in those first three losses. This year, they lost in two very different, very discouraging ways.

They gave Boston Game 1 with a terrible effort and had Game 2 snatched from them in spite of a terrific effort. There isn't much to draw from there.

The Flyers had the crowd, the lead, and the emotional edge. With one shot, they lost all three.


Follow columnist Phil Sheridan on Twitter at twitter.com/SheridanScribe. Read his blog at http:// go.philly.com/philabuster or his recent columns at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.

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