PHILADELPHIA — The NHL is not a league of charity. Laughers rarely take place. Multi-goal leads are never safe.
Saturday’s game was the exception.
The Flyers were more giving than Goodwill, beginning with their starting goaltender. Steve Mason allowed four goals on 19 shots, including a killer in the final minute of the opening period. Philadelphia’s penalty kill failed on three of the Bruins’ four power plays. Vincent Lecavalier and Scott Hartnell, two of the Flyers’ supposed go-to offensive players, combined for zero shots and an equal lack of presence.
“It has to be the most embarrassing game I’ve been involved with,” said Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux.
The result was a 6-1 decision at the Wells Fargo Center that the Bruins were very happy to accept.
“All the way through, it was a complete game,” said Jarome Iginla (two goals). “It felt good. We had a break. We tried to make the most of it and come out with some energy.”
Tuukka Rask’s lone blemish was Giroux’s power-play goal in the third period. The only time Rask sweated was when Ray Emery replaced Mason at 13:10 of the second after Patrice Bergeron gave the Bruins a 4-0 lead.
On Nov. 1, the Capitals were kicking in the Flyers’ teeth by a 7-0 margin. With the game out of hand, Emery challenged Braden Holtby. Emery pounded on Holtby. Considering Saturday’s similar circumstances, Rask didn’t want to see Emery leaving his crease.
“A little bit,” Rask said with a smile when asked if Emery’s entrance made him nervous. “I had the shutout going at that time. I thought he wasn’t going to challenge me. My gloves were pretty tight on my hands. I don’t think they would have dropped anyways.”
It’s been an easier stretch for Rask. Saturday’s start was only his second game in the last 10 days. Rask backed up Chad Johnson for the Bruins’ recent wins over Dallas and Los Angeles. He and his teammates hadn’t played since Monday. They even had two straight days off the ice.
It’s possible that Rask’s start against the Flyers was as relaxing as his two games off against the Stars and Kings. Rask stopped 25 shots. All but a handful were straightforward saves.
“Just a mental break was great,” Rask said of his easy schedule entering the game. “We had a chance to do that and take advantage of it. It felt great today. We just have to keep that going.”
The Bruins controlled the pace of the game by managing the puck in all three zones. Down low, they dominated the boards. They didn’t give up the puck in center ice. In the defensive zone, they kept the Flyers to the outside and didn’t allow many repeated chances.
“I thought our guys committed pretty well,” coach Claude Julien said. “They had a couple good chances in the slot that our guys came back and got their sticks on. We know they’re extremely good down low. They make plays in tight. I thought defensively, we played well. Also offensively, we wanted to manage the puck.”
Iginla led the attack. The right wing hadn’t scored a goal in his eight previous games. The Flyers couldn’t silence Iginla’s hands. He scored the game’s gut-punch goal: a snapper over Mason’s glove with 17.1 seconds remaining in the first. Iginla’s timely goal gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
Iginla scored his second goal on the power play. Iginla’s man-advantage office is at the left circle. He likes to set up for one-timers via cross-ice passes or up-top feeds from Torey Krug. But Iginla entered the game with only two power-play goals. His attempts regularly had thudded into shot-blockers or sailed wide of the goal.
Iginla found his target in the third. With Nicklas Grossman serving a four-minute penalty for high-sticking Jordan Caron, Iginla set up at the left circle. After a dish from Krug, Iginla hammered a one-timer through Emery to give the Bruins a 5-1 lead. Zdeno Chara added another man-up goal, his second of the game, in the latter half of Grossman’s penalty.
“He’s got a great shot,” Julien said of Iginla. “He’s scored a lot of goals in this league for that reason. It’s just a matter of him finding the back of the net. Today, they were going in for him. We’re hoping that’s a good sign. He scores in bunches. Hopefully that keeps going.”
The win was also a breakthrough for Reilly Smith. On Jan. 4, Smith scored his team-leading 15th goal. But for the next seven games, Smith failed to score. Smith watched linemate Brad Marchand propel past him for the team lead.
In the second period, Smith tied his linemate. Smith went one-on-one against Grossman and snapped the puck off the right post. The puck bounced off Mason’s backside and rolled over the line at 6:59 to make it a 3-0 game. Smith and Marchand are now tied with 16 goals.
“Good to get the confidence back,” Smith said. “Me and Bergy are finally helping out Marsh.”
After the blowout, the Wells Fargo Center scurried to change over to hardwood for the Sixers game Saturday night. The Flyers had no complaints about the quick change.