Saturday, May 8, 2010

Gagne's Return Keeps Philadelphia Away From Elimination

By: Tim Brennan

The attitude around each team was drastically different before Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals; the Bruins were in a good position being up 3 to nothing in the series and wanted to push forward and sweep Philadelphia while the Flyers needed the best effort they could put forth so that their season wouldn't end on such a bad note.

Injuries were a key issue before the start of this game as both teams received big news. Simon Gagne was cleared to play for the Flyers in Game 4 after breaking a bone in his foot that required surgery. Gagne was injured in Game 4 of the quarterfinals against New Jersey after blocking a shot from Brian Rolston. This was extremely good news for the Flyers considering that Gagne was thought to be lost for the rest of the playoffs. Gagne is a major part of the Flyers high powered offense so getting him back in time for a possible comeback could boost the team's spirits.

The news for the Bruins wasn't as uplifting. Boston lost left wing Marco Sturm for the playoffs in Game 1 due to torn ligaments in his knee and got even worse news upon hearing that center David Krejci would undergo season ending surgery. Krejci suffered a dislocated wrist when Mike Richards checked him out in center ice after passing the puck off to Milan Lucic. Krejci ended up with an assist on the game winning goal coming from Miroslav Satan. Defenseman Adam McQuaid was also injured, leaving during the first period after sustaining a lower body injury.

In order for the Bruins to overcome the long term injuries sustained by Sturm and Krejci, they were going to need offensive contributions from different sources. One of those happened to be former Flyers forward Mark Recchi. Recchi notched his 5th goal of the playoffs near the latter stages of the first period. Dan Paille received a breakout pass from Dennis Wideman and flipped it over to Patrice Bergeron who broke through the defense and fired a shot that was blocked away by Brian Boucher. As Boucher was laying on the ice, Mark Recchi gobbled up the rebound and fired the puck into the empty top of the net.

Philly's Danny Briere tied things up late in the first off a quick snap shot to Tuukka Rask's left. Briere received a short pass from Claude Giroux and was able to fire one off before Rask had a chance to recover with the shot going right through the legs of the young goaltender. The back and forth play of both teams continued through the second period, with numerous scoring chances going in the Flyers favor. Chris Pronger gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead off a tic-tac-toe passing play. Simon Gagne came in to take the faceoff after Mike Richards was kicked out and subsequently won the faceoff to Dan Carcillo. Carcillo then passed it back to Matt Carle who gave Pronger a soft pass for a one time blast.

Shortly afterwards, Dan Carcillo took an undisciplined penalty that gave Boston some time to recuperate. The Bruins only mustered two shots and ultimately added to the deficit when Claude Giroux put Philadelphia up 3-1 halfway through the middle stanza. The Flyers cycled the puck around until it reached the goal mouth where Scott Hartnell kicked the puck in a soccer type manner over to Giroux who buried it into the empty net.

Just when the Flyers thought they had a strong lead on the Bruins, Michael Ryder scored to push the score to 3-2. A costly turnover in the defensive zone led to several passes to set up Ryder in the slot who fanned on the shot and broke his stick. The puck caromed off the back boards and somehow found a way to squeak past Boucher, who was sprawled out trying to cover it.

Philadelphia's problems with maintaining a lead continue early into the third when Milan Lucic scored a powerplay goal to tie the game up. What seemed to be a simple shot from the point by Dennis Wideman turned into an adventure for Boucher as Lucic was able to get a small piece for the tally. Boston continued to barrage the net with pucks while the Flyers tried to set up in the offensive zone and fight to gain a lead and win their first game in the series. The Flyers broke through the barrier as Ville Leino gave them a 4-3 advantage on a mirror image of Lucic's tying goal.

The Flyers got what they wanted by gaining momentum and giving Boston only a short amount of time to rally back but unfortunately Mark Recchi had other plans. Recchi scored his second goal of the game with only 32 seconds left.

The Flyers would get the last laugh however when Mike Richards fed Matt Carle who had jumped up into the play who fired a pass over to Simon Gagne to deflect it past Tuukka Rask and clinch Game 4 for Philadelphia. Gagne was the x factor in this game, who basically started the play that led to Chris Pronger's second period goal and led the team in shots with 7. Although Gagne was suffering from a broken toe and didn't see much ice time in the third period, he told head coach Peter Laviolette that he was good to go for overtime and ended up winning the game for the Flyers.

Not only was Gagne in the spotlight, but the emergence of Matt Carle continued in Game 4. Carle's confidence seems to have spiked this year with the addition of Chris Pronger and the offensive contributions from the 25 year old have been timely. Carle ended the game with 4 assists and a +5 rating. Carle's ability to jump into the play offensively has helped give the Flyers more scoring chances than they could think possible. The impact of both Carle and Gagne in this game helped propel them past Boston and will give them plenty of momentum going into Game 5 on Monday.

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