BOSTON -- What if Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard hadn't returned to the team for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers? One could only wonder.
Savard, out of the lineup since March 7 after suffering a Grade 2 concussion in Pittsburgh, was back where he belongs for the first time in 25 games on Saturday -- and proved to be the difference in a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory over Philadelphia before 17,565 at TD Garden.
The veteran center controlled a feed from defenseman Dennis Wideman in the right circle and teed up a bouncing puck that sailed over the left shoulder of goalie Brian Boucher and under the crossbar 13:52 into the first overtime to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven series. The teams return to TD Garden for Game 2 on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.
"It's been a whirlwind for me," said Savard, who finished with 15:16 of ice time on 23 shifts. "I went through a lot of tough days and I don't know what happened. I felt like when they tied it (late in the third period) and we went in the room, I felt like, 'Jeez, I think this is how it's supposed to be right here.'
"When Wides (Wideman) pinched and kept it alive, I was just thinking, 'As soon as this thing lands, I'm shooting it.' And it found a way in."
In the process, he also foiled a tremendous effort put in by Boucher, who finished the game with 41 saves, including 14 in overtime. At the other end, Boston goalie Tuukka Rask was equally splendid behind 32 stops, including four in the extra period.
Boucher thought he could have denied Savard his chance in overtime.
"Danny (Briere) threw it to the side of the net and I tried to get it back to him and the guy intercepted it," Boucher said. "Looking back on it now, I would have tried to freeze it. I didn't know what was behind me and I didn't know if there was a guy coming from behind. Hindsight is 20-20."
Both teams had excellent chances in overtime. The Bruins buzzed in the Flyers' zone for most of the first two minutes and Boucher made a couple key stops off Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron. He'd stone Michael Ryder on a point-blank attempt midway through the period. The 22-year-old Rask probably aged 10 years just 4:27 into overtime when Philadelphia's Daniel Carcillo broke in one-on-one but his quick snap shot was turned aside.
"He came in kind of from the side and made a move across," Rask said. "He tried to go five-hole and it just hit my pad. In OT, you got to make those saves sometimes. I thought we really bounced back after we gave up that two-goal lead."
The Flyers, who actually rallied from a two-goal deficit on three occasions in the game, pulled into a 4-4 tie on Briere's third of the playoffs with just 3:22 remaining in the third period. After taking a feed from defenseman Chris Pronger in the neutral zone, Briere skated the length of the ice, splitting Wideman and defense partner Matt Hunwick along the way. His initial attempt off the backhand was stopped, but he knocked in the rebound off his forehand to silence the TD Garden faithful.
The Bruins opened a 4-2 lead 7:25 into the third on a highlight-reel goal by David Krejci, who stickhandled in front of Boucher before lifting his shot past the outstretched left glove. The resilient Flyers pulled to within 4-3 on their second power-play goal of the game at the 12:37 mark, when Mike Richards popped in a rebound to the right of Rask. Rask was out of position and lying on the ice at the time of the goal, as Flyers forward Scott Hartnell had bumped into him just seconds earlier.
"They've shown a lot of resiliency all year long," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "The first round (against the New Jersey Devils) was the same thing. I think the guys did a tremendous job of fighting back."
The Bruins took a 3-1 lead at 11:43 of the second on a power-play goal by Miroslav Satan. Johnny Boychuk took the initial shot from the left point that deflected off the skate of Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn onto Satan's stick in the right circle.
The Flyers pared the margin to 3-2 with a power-play goal of their own at 15:48 by Pronger -- marking the first power-play goal scored against the Bruins in the playoffs on 21 chances.
The Bruins did lose a big part of their team just 21 seconds into the game when Marco Sturm collided awkwardly with Flyers defenseman Matt Carle along the half-boards in the Philadelphia zone. Sturm was helped off the ice with a lower-body injury.
"We had to keep going," Bergeron said. "Obviously everyone had to step up, losing a guy like Sturmy. Hope he's alright."
Boston coach Claude Julien admitted Sturm was being evaluated after the game.
"If anything, we'll probably have something more specific by (Sunday)," said Julien, who replaced Sturm with Steve Begin alongside Recchi and Bergeron.
"You got to be ready for anything and take advantage of it when you get a chance like that," said Begin, who opened the scoring with his first career playoff goal 2:39 into the game. "Every line was going shift after shift, but we have to play hard for 60 minutes with them. They play hard; they don't quit until the end."
Bergeron would stake the Bruins to a 2-0 lead at 12:54 of the first. Ryan Parent's first career playoff goal cut the lead in half at 7:38 of the second.
It appeared as though the eight-day layoff between games for the Flyers caught up with them in the opening period. If fact, if not for Boucher, the home team might have established an insurmountable advantage.
"I think after a long layoff, it's tough to get the legs going right off the bat," Richards said. "At least we have the blueprint of what we need to do with our play in the second and third period."
Best Shift: Flyers goalie Brian Boucher was having an incredible overtime period, stopping all 14 shots, but he gave the puck away on the shift that led to Marc Savard’s winning goal. A pinch along the boards by defenseman Dennis Wideman kept the puck in the zone and Savard was able to take his feed, tee up a slightly rolling puck in the right circle and rip a shot under the crossbar into the left corner of the net for the goal that gave the Bruins a 1-0 series lead.
1 - 0 BOS
2 - 0 BOS
2 - 1 BOS
3 - 1 BOS
3 - 2 BOS
4 - 2 BOS
4 - 3 BOS
4 - 4 Tie
1st OT Period