Four different goal scorers’ combined efforts lifted the Philadelphia Flyers over the Boston Bruins, 4-1, in the first game of Round Robin action in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier and Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario on Sunday.
Carter Hart (1-0-0 in one game played, 1.00 goals against average, .971 save percentage) made 34 saves on 35 shots faced for a .971 SV% in the win for the Flyers.
Bruins goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (0-1-0 in one game played, 4.29 GAA, .862 SV%) made 25 saves on 29 shots against for an .862 SV% in the loss.
Tuukka Rask did not practice on Saturday in either session and was ruled “unfit to play” in Sunday’s matinee against Philadelphia. As a result, Dan Vladar took part in warmups and was Halak’s backup for the Bruins.
It was the first time since 2012, that a goaltender other than Rask started a postseason game for Boston. Tim Thomas started all seven games in their 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series loss to the Washington Capitals.
Sunday also marked the first postseason start for Halak since 2015.
Three Bruins made their NHL postseason debuts as Jack Studnicka, Jeremy Lauzon and Anders Bjork were all in the lineup for Boston.
Ondrej Kase joined the team in Toronto on Saturday and practiced in the second group session for the Bruins and might be available in time for their next matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday afternoon.
Kase, along with Nick Ritchie and Rask, were the big names out of the lineup for Boston on Sunday, but they weren’t the only ones not on the ice for the action as the B’s had a long list of healthy scratches including, Zach Senyshyn, Par Lindholm, John Moore, Maxime Lagace, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Connor Clifton and Trent Frederic (Kevan Miller was not included on the Phase 3 and 4 roster and Steven Kampfer opted out of Phase 3 and 4 action).
Meanwhile, Zdeno Chara skated in his 183rd career postseason NHL game, which is the second-most among active NHL players– trailing Pittsburgh Penguins forward, Patrick Marleau (192 Stanley Cup Playoff games and counting).
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy kicked things off with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak as his usual first line, while Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and Studnicka rounded out his top-six forwards.
Bjork was on the third line with Charlie Coyle and Karson Kuhlman, while Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner were reunited as the fourth line trio after they were split among the bottom-six forwards in Boston’s, 4-1, exhibition loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets last Thursday.
On defense, Cassidy opted for Chara alongside Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug paired with Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk partnered with Lauzon.
Almost midway through the opening frame, Michael Raffl slashed Bjork and presented Boston with the first power play of the afternoon at 8:51 of the first period.
The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
Moments later, Krejci cut a rut to the box after hooking Travis Konecny at 14:41, but Philadelphia’s power play was powerless– a trend that would suit both teams all afternoon.
At 19:08, Carlo was sent to the sin bin for tripping Tyler Pitlick, but despite the skater advantage overlapping with part of the second period, the Flyers were unsuccessful at finding the back of the net while the B’s were shorthanded.
Through 20 minutes of action in Toronto, the Bruins and Flyers were still tied, 0-0, with Boston holding the advantage in shots on goal, 12-6.
The Bruins also led in hits (9-7), while the Flyers led in takeaways (3-0) and faceoff win percentage (67-37).
Both teams had seven blocked shots aside and four giveaways apiece.
Philadelphia was 0/2 and Boston was 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.
Raffl (1) broke through Boston’s defense as Lauzon was caught out of position, deked and flipped the puck high over Halak to give Philly the game’s first goal and the game’s first lead, 1-0, at 5:33 of the second period.
Travis Sanheim (1) had the only assist on Raffl’s tally, while the Bruins looked gassed as Raffl scored the goal on a shift lasting over a minute for Bergeron, Marchand, Krug and Lauzon.
Then, moments later, Nate Thompson (1) rushed in with a burst of speed– catching the B’s behind the play again and sent the puck over Lauzon while the Bruins defender inadvertently screened his own goaltender.
The rubber biscuit had eyes as it floated over Lauzon, over Halak’s blocker side, off Halak’s stick and into the twine behind the Boston netminder to extend Philadelphia’s lead to two goals.
Raffl (1) and Ivan Provorov (1) notched the assists on Thompson’s goal and the Flyers led, 2-0, at 9:31 of the second period.
Eight seconds later, Robert Hagg was chasing Bjork and penalized for interference at 9:39, but Boston wasn’t able to muster anything on the scoreboard while on the skater advantage.
Late in the period, Wagner (1) collected a garbage goal and cut Philadelphia’s lead in half, 2-1, at 18:51.
Nordstrom (1) and McAvoy (1) had the assists on Boston’s only goal of the afternoon, but the momentum the B’s generated was short-lived. Really short-lived.
Eight seconds after Wagner made it a one-goal game, Philippe Myers (1) made it a two-goal lead for the Flyers once more after he broke free from the neutral zone while Chara was tripped up and left his netminder short a defender.
Myers sniped a shot over Halak and just under the crossbar and made it, 3-1, Philly at 18:59 of the middle frame.
Jakub Voracek (1) had the only assist on the goal.
After two periods, the Flyers led, 3-1, on the scoreboard, but trailed the Bruins, 20-17, in total shots on goal– despite outshooting Boston, 11-8, in the second period alone.
Philly also held onto the advantage in blocked shots (14-9), takeaways (5-0) and faceoff win% (53-47), while the Bruins led in giveaways (8-5) and hits (23-16).
Both teams were 0/2 on the power play entering the final frame.
At 4:07 of the third period, Scott Laughton (1) fired a shot over Halak’s glove after sneaking through Boston’s defense after Carlo bungled a pinch and Krug was left trailing the Flyers forward.
Kevin Hayes (1) was credited with the only assist on Laughton’s goal and Philadelphia led, 4-1.
Boston recorded their first shot on net in the third period at 9:39, before going on the power play 61 seconds later after Matt Niskanen caught Pastrnak with a high-stick at 10:40.
The Flyers killed off Niskanen’s minor infraction with ease, then Raffl and Lauzon collided near the boards, resulting in an awkward collapse to the ice for Raffl that left the Philadelphia forward with an apparent lower body injury– requiring assistance off the rink from the trainer and one of his Flyers teammates.
Laughton tried to spar with Lauzon, but the two players each received slashing minors and 10-minute misconducts at 13:48 of the third period.
Studnicka served Lauzon’s minor, while James van Riemsdyk served Laughton’s minor infraction as well. Both teams skated at 4-on-4 for two minutes before resuming full strength.
With about 3:30 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled Halak for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail.
In the closing minutes, Krug and van Riemsdyk got tangled up, latched onto each other and received holding minors at 18:31– ending their nights early.
At the final horn, the Flyers had won, 4-1, and finished the afternoon leading in blocked shots (16-11) and faceoff win% (53-47), while the Bruins led in shots on goal (35-29), giveaways (10-7) and hits (28-25).
Philadelphia finished the game 0/2 on the skater advantage, while Boston went 0/3 on the power play.
The two teams will remain in the Toronto bubble until the Bruins take on the Tampa Bay Lightning at 4 PM ET on Wednesday and the Flyers take on the Washington Capitals on Thursday. Both games will be at Scotiabank Arena as the NHL’s postseason plan rolls on while the threat of the pandemic lurks outside each and every day.