PHILADELPHIA – This figured to be the Flyers’ toughest test of their unbeaten three-week run and many thought they would be on the defensive against the No. 1-ranked Boston Bruins.
But against expectations, the Flyers came out in full assault mode and peppered goalie Tuukka Rask with shot after shot.
Just one problem: Not one puck found the back of the net.
On the other hand, the Bruins did get a couple past goaltender Carter Hart and skated away with a 2-0 decision at the Wells Fargo Center, ending the Flyers’ nine-game winning streak which extended back to Feb. 18.
A power-play goal by Boston’s Matt Gryzelcyk with 1:39 left in the second period put Boston ahead for good. Justin Braun was in the penalty box at the time of the goal.
Patrice Bergeron added an insurance goal with 5:20 to play.
The loss, the Flyers’ first since a 5-3 defeat at Tampa Bay back on Feb. 15, prevented them from moving past Washington into the Metropolitan Division lead. Instead, the Flyers remain one point back of the Caps with each team having 13 games to play.
For Hart, it was just his third home loss of the season (20-3-2). The defeat ended the Flyers’ four-game winning streak against the Bruins dating back to last year.
Philadelphia was shut out for just the third time this season. Previously it had been blanked by Tampa Bay and the New Jersey Devils.
The Flyers were all over Rask, putting a dozen shots on him in each of the first two periods but were frustrated at every turn.
Rask made a spectacular save on Travis Konecny off a Jake Voracek feed which seemed to set the tone for the game.
That’s the way it seemed to go all night long. The Flyers have played these big teams tough (7-2-1 vs. division leaders) but this one just didn’t go their way.
“I liked our game,’’ defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “I’d rather win. We just went on a heck of a run, played pretty good hockey tonight but you can see how tight it’s going to be when we play teams like this in about a month (the start of the playoffs).
“That was a good test for us.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault sounded satisfied with the effort. Rask was simply too good.
“He’s the reason they won the game,’’ Vigneault said. “For two periods, I thought we were the better team. We had some good opportunities and just couldn’t get anything past him.
“I think all our games against Boston this year have been good games. The goal they scored at the end of the second period game them momentum.’’
Preceding the first Boston goal, the Flyers nearly had a shorthanded goal but Scott Laughton passed on a possible open shot and tried to dish to Kevin Hayes.
That move backfired when Charlie Coyle stepped in and intercepted and about 20 seconds later, Boston scored.
“I tried to make a play,’’ Laughton said. “But it went the other way. It changed the momentum of the game. I’d like to have that one back.’’
Philadelphia, which had won the first two meetings between the two teams this year, missed a chance to finish the season without a regulation-time loss to the Bruins for only the third time since the rivals started playing each other in 1967.
“We’ve been playing well lately, even tonight,’’ Hart said. “We just ran into a hot goalie.’’
Earlier in the day, defenseman Philippe Myers was placed on the injured list with a fracture to the patella in his right leg. He’s expected to be out a month.
Shayne Gostisbehere returned to action for only his second game since undergoing knee surgery in January. He was paired with Robert Hagg.
“I thought he played real well,’’ Vigneault said. “Tough position to put somebody in. I thought his energy level, his execution, his battle level was real good.’’
Said Gostisbehere: “I definitely felt good. On a personal level, I felt like I had my legs under me. I didn’t mind getting thrown in the fire like that. If I play tentative I don’t play my game.’’
>Ironman streaks continue
Both Ivan Provorov and Claude Giroux played in their 315th consecutive games on Tuesday night, meaning they can possibly tie John LeClair’s streak of 317 straight (ranked second alltime) in Saturday’s game vs. Minnesota and move ahead of LeClair in Sunday’s game against Edmonton. The Flyers play in Tampa Bay on Thursday. Provorov’s streak began at the start of his career (Oct. 14, 2016), which is a franchise record. The Flyers’ overall franchise record is 484 straight games, set by Rod Brind’Amour between Feb. 24, 1993 and April 18, 1999.
>Full house despite virus
The attendance for this game was announced at 19,689, which is 148 over the official capacity of 19,541. Quite a tribute to fans in light of the coronavirus and the Philadelphia’s Department of Health recommendation not to attend events of more than 5,000 people.
“Flyers fans, like us, are excited,’’ Vigneault said. “They want the team to do well, they showed support throughout the game. Unfortunately we came out on the wrong side but it wasn’t through lack of effort.’’
Hart said: “I don’t think we really care about the coronavirus. . .’’
To which Gostisbehere added, “It’s Philly, bro.’’