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EVEN AFTER THE BRUINS WON THE FIRST THREE GAMES OF their series against the Flyers, the fear of a collapse still hung ominously in the air at TD Garden. A year earlier Boston blew a three-games-to-none lead—as well as a 3--0 lead in Game 7—to Philadelphia. Maybe the demons weren't gone; perhaps they were just asleep. "We felt it was a new year, that we had a better team, that history wouldn't repeat, all of that," said center David Krejci after the decisive fourth game, Boston's second straight 5--1 victory on home ice, "but until it was finished, we probably couldn't convince people."
Consider the Flyers convinced. Boston's dominance in the four-game sweep left no margin for déjà vu. The Bruins outscored Philadelphia 20--7 and on the way chased the Flyers' starting netminder in each of the first three games, while Bruins goalie Tim Thomas grew stronger as the series went on. Forwards Krejci, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic, and defenseman Zdeno Chara each had a two-goal game, and during the short series 10 different Bruins scored.
Boston's overwhelming edge in goal was clear during the first two games, in Philadelphia. "Too many easy goals and too many easy plays," lamented Flyers coach Peter Laviolette after the Bruins torched goalies Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky in a 7--3 Game 1 victory.
Laviolette insisted his players would be better in Game 2, and they were. Philadelphia jumped to a 2--0 lead on a pair of goals by James van Riemsdyk in the first 10 minutes, then peppered Thomas the rest of the night. In all, Thomas stopped 52 of 54 shots, including the last 46 he faced, often with his trademark acrobatics.
"He was by far the star of the game," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after Boston had rallied to tie the game then win it 3--2 on a one-timer from Krejci 14 minutes into overtime. The game-winner bounced in and out of the net so fast that the officials allowed play to continue before pausing for review and then confirming the goal. "[Timmy] stood tall," said Julien, "and if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't be standing here with a win."
After trading cheesesteaks for chowder, the Bruins got out quickly on home ice in Game 3 as Chara and Krejci each scored in the first 63 seconds. That marked the fastest two goals to start an NHL playoff game since Detroit put a pair past Phoenix in 61 seconds in 1998.
The fourth game, despite its ominous shadows, proved as convincing as the third. Lucic broke his 20-game goal-scoring drought, connecting in the first period on Boston's struggling power play. He added another score in the third, as the Bruins earned to earn their first trip to the conference finals in 19 years.
"It's something that has been hanging over our heads for over a year," Julien said of the possibility, now extinct, of a replay of the 2009--10 playoff fold. "You need to take time to appreciate what you have done, and, at the same time, you really have to stay focused, because the toughest games are yet to come."