The Flyers had two minutes to gain control of the puck, go the other way without even gaining center ice, and tuck it into an empty net to seal a 3-1 win.
Philadelphia was up, 2-1. Wayne Simmonds was in the box for tripping Daniel Paille at 17:57. Tuukka Rask was off for a sixth attacker.
It didn’t happen. The Bruins were 14.1 seconds away from a 2-1 loss. Instead, Brad Marchand tied the game by tipping Dougie Hamilton’s shot past Steve Mason. In overtime, Marchand scored again to give the Bruins a 3-2 win.
Marchand’s second goal never would have happened had Claude Julien not made the right call to pull Rask.
It’s hard to kill a six-on-four power play. It’s even harder to score into an empty net.
The Bruins, down one goal, were desperate for the equalizer. They had numbers all over the offensive zone. The Philadelphia penalty killers (Chris VandeVelde, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Michael Del Zotto, and Nick Schultz) had to stay tight and not chase the puck.
“You can’t run around,” said Gregory Campbell, a regular penalty killer. “You’re down two men, so you really have to hold your position. They did a pretty good job. They were compact. We were moving it around. We were able to get our shots through. It’s tough. Five on four is tough enough. But when you’re outnumbered by two guys, it’s a matter of numbers. You really just have to be strong positionally.”
The Flyers, without fear of an icing call, could have sent the puck down the ice and into an open net. It would have spelled curtains for a Boston rally and left the Bruins with no points.
But Julien did not hesitate to pull Rask at the start of the power play. The Bruins coach knows how hard it is for a team down two men to gain puck possession. He also has the right personnel to execute a six-on-four power play to tie the game.
Namely Patrice Bergeron.
The center is one of the best faceoff men (59.9 percent) in the business. Julien knew the percentages were in the Bruins’ favor. With Bergeron lining up against Bellemare, the Bruins had a good chance of starting the power play with the puck. Once they gained possession, Bergeron and his power-play mates (Hamilton and Torey Krug at the points, Marchand in the slot, Loui Eriksson down low, Ryan Spooner on the right half-wall) were likely to snap the puck around and keep it off the Flyers’ sticks.
“He’s going to win probably seven out of 10 draws,” Julien said. “You’re banking on him winning that faceoff, or at least creating a battle and getting control of it. Six on four is hard to defend against. They didn’t get a chance to get out for a long time. They’ve got some tired guys out there. It was important for us to go after that win right away.”
Bellemare was credited with the win to start the power play. But the Bruins regained possession and went to work.
The Flyers quickly totaled three of their 25 blocks (two by Del Zotto, one by Bellemare) to keep the tying puck out of the net. When Hamilton finally slipped one through, Mason gobbled it up and didn’t let it go with 18.6 seconds left in regulation.
The Bruins needed their timeout to rest their unit. They didn’t have it. They were forced to burn it at the start of the power play — unfairly, Julien believed, because the Flyers were slow to send out their penalty killers.
“They weren’t putting their players on and sending them to the faceoff circle. They should have been charged with the timeout,” Julien said. “The referee in the middle of the ice seemed to know what was going on. He was telling them to go on. All of a sudden, the other referee came over and charged us with the timeout. We could have used it on that last faceoff.”
The draw was at the right circle. Had Julien swapped out his units, he would have lost Bergeron, his best righthanded faceoff man. He would also have replaced the right-shot Hamilton. Zdeno Chara and Reilly Smith, the point men on the second unit, are left shots.
Julien kept his first unit on. It paid off. Bergeron (16 for 26) beat Claude Giroux on the draw. He pulled the puck back to Hamilton. Marchand, lined up on Bergeron’s right side, executed a tight curl and slipped behind Luke Schenn to set up in front of Mason.
It wasn’t Marchand’s job. They wanted him in the slot to snap off a shot. Eriksson is their net-front man. But Eriksson couldn’t get there in time because he ran into Giroux.
Hamilton waited for a shooting lane to open. He fired the puck through bodies. Marchand got his stick on the puck and tipped it past Mason to guarantee at least one point. In overtime, Marchand gave them another.
A coach’s job is to maximize his team’s chance to win. Julien did just that.