The Bruins surrendered a third-period lead and an extra point to the fifth-place Flyers, the team they are hoping to drown out of the playoff picture.
A 3-2 overtime setback on Monday was the third loss in six games for the B’s, who continue to pair a favorable result with one less so.
Fourth-place Boston (19-10-6), now three points ahead of Philadelphia (18-14-5) with two games in hand, wanted both points from a club that had managed six wins, three of them in regulation, in its previous 18 games (6-10-2). They’ll meet again Tuesday on Broad Street.
The last time the Bruins saw the Flyers, it was Feb. 21 at Lake Tahoe. That 7-3 beatdown by the Bruins, awash in neon jumpsuits, vintage shades and “Barbie Girl” locker room dance parties, was one of the most memorable outings of the season. Dan Vladar was the story Monday, until the Flyers stole their first win over the Bruins this year (1-3-2).
The rookie netminder, playing with Tuukka Rask (upper body injury) and Jaroslav Halak (COVID protocol) out of commission, has cobbled together a promising highlight reel in his first four NHL starts. The first clip in that tape would be his audacious paddle save against Pittsburgh. It would be followed by scenes from Monday’s second-period penalty kill, when the 6-foot-5-inch Vladar, looking like an oversized Tim Thomas, pushed to his right to stop Claude Giroux at one post, then Travis Konecny at the other.
“Big-time saves,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “He’s a battler in there.”
Vladar (29 saves), who stopped 24 of his first 25 shots, stared down Travis Sanheim in overtime once, but he couldn’t outplay him twice. The Flyers defenseman had help. He blocked a Patrice Bergeron shot with his skate, raced out of his end and, after Bergeron went skates-over-helmet on a rut in the neutral zone, was all alone to whip a shot over Vladar’s blocker at 3:08.
The soft-spoken Czech said he wants to “save every single puck,” but he was far from dejected afterward.
“I’m just living my dream,” he said, “so I’m enjoying every second out there.” He would likely cede the net to Jeremy Swayman (NHL debut) to finish a back-to-back Tuesday, if Halak’s positive test turns out to be legitimate. Swayman was the backup Monday.
Philly secured one point when Sean Couturier walked off the left wing and sniped home a power play goal at the 6:56 mark of the third, tying a game the Bruins had largely controlled.
More observations from the game:
▪ The Flyers’ penalty kill has had few answers against the Bruins this year (9 for 18). They had zero on Bergeron’s go-ahead PPG, which came 46 seconds into the second period.
Matt Grzelcyk danced past a swiping Kevin Hayes at the line, keeping the puck in the zone while working with about two feet of space. David Pastrnak sent a perfect slap-pass into the bumper. Bergeron tipped it into the open right side of the net. Nick Ritchie was ready for a far-side rebound that never came. Brad Marchand was out high for a reset. It all looked so easy.
The Bruins’ up-and-down power play is a respectable 3 for 9 lately.
▪ Defending hard without fouling is a concern for most young, physical defensemen, and struggling Jeremy Lauzon, who took two holding penalties and was in the box for Couturier’s tying goal, still has a bit to learn in that department.
“Same guy,” Cassidy said, calling it a “bad” one. “That hurt us, obviously.”
▪ Before the game, Cassidy noted how opposing teams have an easier time defending when Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy aren’t on the ice, because other Bruins defensemen don’t generate enough action from the point. The first Philly goal came on a low-percentage, tipped shot that pinballed around before Konecny deposited it at 10:15 of the first. Havoc can be a good thing.
▪ The Bruins surged after the goal. McAvoy flew into the slot, unmarked, and dented the post off a feed from Bergeron. One of the louder “ping” sounds heard this season, to those at the rink or watching on TV.
▪ At 17:33 of the first, Karson Kuhlman tied it off a Flyers breakdown, using Jake DeBrusk and a sliding Sanheim to screen Brian Elliott, and ripping a short-side snapper off Elliott’s glove.
▪ Kuhlman was playing on the DeBrusk-Charlie Coyle third line after Zach Senyshyn was dropped to the fourth line. Senyshyn skated one 23-second shift in the second period, beginning with 2:59 left. The rookie, however, was part of a strong possession shift late in a tied third, along with Trent Frederic and Sean Kuraly. The latter showed his confidence by making a deceptive play on the breakout.
The Bruins need more of that help from forwards, with their back end compromised in the puck-moving department.