BOSTON -- If the next game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins resembles anything like what we saw Monday night at TD Garden, the 40,000 or so lucky fans that will walk through the turnstiles at Fenway Park on Jan. 1 will be in for a treat.
Flyers fans, though, would feel just a tad warmer at the end of the game if the result stayed the same.
The Bruins and Flyers, who will clash in the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, played an entertaining game that wasn't decided until Philadelphia defenseman Kimmo Timonen scored off a deflection 10:28 into third period and then into an empty net from 185 feet out while shorthanded with 40 seconds left to lift the Flyers to a 3-1 victory.
"We were desperate," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette happily told NHL.com.
No question about that.
Philadelphia was 1-4 in its first five games under Laviolette and had won just twice in their last 12 games heading into the glare of the Winter Classic buildout at the baseball cathedral on the other side of the city.
They also trailed 1-0 after two periods, but James van Riemsdyk struck 2:48 into the third and then Timonen scored the winner nearly 10 minutes later after his harmless shot from the top of the zone deflected off Bruins forward Blake Wheeler's hand before knuckling past Boston goalie Tim Thomas (35 saves).
"We haven't had those kinds of breaks at all and that was the first break we got," Timonen said. "Hopefully it turns around from there."
The Bruins, who lost in regulation for only the second time in their last 12 games, broke the scoreless tie 18:32 into the second period when Vladimir Sobotka redirected a pass from a twirling Shawn Thornton for his third goal. Flyers center Jon Kalinski may have gotten a piece of the puck after Sobotka got his stick on it.
Bruins coach Claude Julien felt his team should have been up 2-0 after two periods. Sobotka had what appeared to be a goal just 2:15 into the game stripped away because the officials blew the play dead before the puck (and Flyers goalie Brian Boucher) crossed the goal line.
Even still, Julien, who thought Philadelphia got away with a little too much as well, was frustrated with his team's effort in the third period, calling it a "meltdown." He bemoaned the fact that the Flyers were winning all the puck battles and the races to the puck.
Julien also seemed perturbed that his team couldn't finish the chances it had.
"Getting opportunities is one thing, but you need to get results," he said. "That is where our guys have to be better and not be content with just driving the net and getting the tip. You have to get them in. Our guys need to work on that part of the game."
Outside of the visiting dressing room, Laviolette was saying that he thought the third period was maybe the Flyers best since he took over for fired coach John Stevens on Dec. 5.
"It was good to see that kill in us," he said. "A lot of times you can go out and let 1-0 go by the wayside and probably not many people would say much of anything, but to go out and have that kill it's a good start and it's a good step."
The Flyers did not make the best of a 5-on-3 for 1:12 midway through the third period. They managed only two shots on goal, but had another three attempts at the net blocked by Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman, who was even staggered on the first block but stayed on his feet and even knocked away a crossing pass at the end of the kill.
Usually when a team doesn't score on a 5-on-3, momentum swings in a big way to the other side. The Bruins, though, couldn't get anything going. They had only one more shot before the first period ended.
Wideman left the game after the second period with an unrelated injury and Julien said he will be reevaluated Tuesday.
"We were OK (after the 5-on-3 kill), but it wasn't the way we would have liked," Bruins wing Mark Recchi said. "In the third we just stunk it up. It was a poor effort. When teams are struggling and are a number of points behind you want to keep them down and you want to keep moving forward. We didn't."
Yet the Bruins still had a chance in the final 1:03 after Scott Hartnell, who had a rough game all around, caught Recchi in the face with his stick and went off for high sticking.
Julien called a timeout to see if he could set up a play to get the Bruins a chance at netting the tying goal, but they couldn't settle the puck in the zone and after Jeff Carter won a draw to the left of Boucher (26 saves), Timonen lofted the puck the length of the ice right into the net vacated by Thomas to create a 6-on-4 advantage.
That goal, and the two that came before it in the third period, did a lot to alleviate some headaches and pressure consuming the Flyers' dressing room over the last month.
"We are desperate," Timonen said. "The way we have been playing, I think this was our second win in (12) games, so obviously we are really desperate, but that's the way we have to keep playing every game. If we can do that, we can win a lot of games."
Contact Dan Rosen at: email@example.com.
1 - 0 BOS
James van Riemsdyk
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 PHI
SHG - EN -
3 - 1 PHI
Delaying the game