PHILADELPHIA — Maybe it wasn’t a do-or-die game. For the Philadelphia Flyers, however, it was a win they absolutely needed.
Sean Couturier scored near the midway point of the third period to break a tie and the Flyers picked up a critical 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins on Saturday.
Brian Elliott stopped 30 shots for Philadelphia, which moved within four points of Boston for the fourth and final playoff spot in the NHL’s East Division. The Bruins have two games in hand on the Flyers with Philadelphia having 16 games remaining. The two teams have completed their regular-season series.
“I think it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t have liked our chances of battling back if we would have lost,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said. “We needed to win, especially in regulation and especially (against) a team that we are chasing. They’ve got two games in hand, but they’ve got a lot of hockey to play in a short amount of time. You never know how it’s going to turn out. We got to take care of our own business and focus on our game here.”
Travis Konecny and Shayne Gostisbehere added goals for Philadelphia in the victory, only the second in eight contests against Boston this season.
“It’s about gaining momentum and confidence and trying to string together those segments where you’re winning a lot of games,” said Konecny, who also added an assist. “As far as how we’ve been playing, we’re not super surprised. It’s how we’ve been wanting to play all year and how we know we can play, and now it’s just coming together and things are starting to happen for us.
“We just got to stick to the same way we’ve been playing, the same plan, and regroup and come back and be ready to play again.”
Patrice Bergeron and Jack DeBrusk scored for the Bruins. Former University of Maine goaltender Jeremy Swayman stopped 20 shots in the Boston net.
“Obviously, they had a lot to play for,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We had a few breakdowns and they converted on them.”
Couturier broke a 2-2 tie just under seven minutes into the third, converting off a Joel Farabee pass to the right of the net and capitalizing on a fallen Swayman in the Boston crease for his 12th goal of the year.
That was enough for Elliott and the beleaguered Flyers’ defensive corps, which clamped down on the Bruins power play. Boston entered Saturday’s game with a 10-for-20 mark against the Flyers on the power play this season. Philadelphia held the Bruins scoreless in four tries on Saturday.
“The ability to get in lanes, have good sticks and force them into plays that they don’t really want to make, I thought we were really strong in that area,” Elliott said. “It’s something we’ve been stressing for a while now. I think we’ve been getting better and better.”
Boston opened the scoring early in the first period when Bergeron capitalized on a turnover behind the Philadelphia net and whipped a one-timer past Elliott. It was Bergeron’s 16th goal of the season and his eighth in eight games against the Flyers.
Philadelphia answered quickly when Konecny pounced on a deep rebound from a Robert Haag shot and put it into the empty left side of the net to tie it. Late in the first period, Konecny threaded a nifty pass to Gostisbehere, who tipped it past Swayman to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead.
Boston tied the game midway through the second period when DeBrusk beat Elliott from the open area just above the crease.
“There’s no time for excuses right now,” DeBrusk said. “We’re trying to rally around each other. This is a playoff push and it is the most exciting time of the year.”
Bruins: Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk left Saturday’s game after the first period with what the club described as an upper body injury. The 27-year- old was playing on the top pairing of the Bruins battered defensive unit, which has already been depleted by injuries to Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. He is listed as day-to-day.
Tuukka Rask could return for the Bruins on Sunday against the Capitals. Rask has been battling an upper body injury and has played one period since March 7.
Flyers: Defenseman Ivan Provorov returned to the game shortly after taking a point shot just inside the left kneecap, crumbling to the ice in pain after just 18 seconds. Provorov has been Philadelphia’s top defenseman and has played 40 games this season.
Bruins: Host Capitals Sunday.
Flyers: Host Sabres Sunday.
Story by Kevin Cooney