As Goaltending Falters, Flyers Find Themselves in a Familiar Hole

The Flyers’ playoff goaltending has been a mess. Flyers

Wednesday night was no different. Brian Boucher made a great side-to-side save to deny the Bruins’ Brad Marchand on a backdoor tip-in 26 seconds into Game 3. Four seconds later, the puck slid to Zdeno Chara, who slapped it past Boucher: 1-0, Bruins. Thirty-three seconds later, David Krejci wristed a shot past Boucher: 2-0, Bruins.

The Bruins went on to a 5-1 victory that gave them a three-games-to-none lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Boucher was given the hook by Coach Peter Laviolette in the second period, making this the sixth of 10 playoff games in which a Flyers starting goalie did not finish the game.

Laviolette said the first two goals were not Boucher’s fault, but that of a surprisingly flat team.

“The first three minutes, four minutes in a visiting team’s building have to be good minutes,” he said. “Obviously the start was not good for us.”

Of course, the Bruins were up by 3-0 on the Flyers last year and Philadelphia rallied to win the series in seven games.

Based on Boston’s performance at TD Garden — and especially the flawless work of goaltender Tim Thomas — it is hard to believe they will collapse again.

Thomas kicked out 37 shots after his terrific 46-save performance Monday in a 3-2 overtime victory by conducting a clinic in angle work. He plucked screened shots out of the air and defied conventional goaltending by coming out well beyond the lip of his crease to attack shooters, running his consecutive-save total to 68 before Andrej Meszaros scored for Philadelphia with 3 minutes 34 seconds left in the second period.

By that time Boston had scored four goals. The fourth came from Nathan Horton with 4:46 to go in the second period, a shot that went between the legs of Boucher, who has been lifted four times this spring.

The door opened for Sergei Bobrovsky, and Boucher went off, stalking down the corridor to the dressing room, hurling his useless stick before him.

Boucher finished with 16 saves on 20 shots, leaving his playoff save percentage at .904. Bobrovsky’s is .875.The playoff save percentage for Thomas, who won the Vezina Trophy in 2009 and is expected to win it again this year, stands at .935. Thomas was on the bench last year when the Flyers rallied with four straight wins to beat the Bruins. Tuukka Rask was in goal for Boston, but now he is the backup.

Unless the Flyers produce another miracle, the Bruins could claim their second series here Friday night in Game 4. It would be the first time since 1992 that the Bruins won two series in the same postseason.

“We learned last year that the fourth win is the hardest,” Thomas said. “Hopefully we just hit the reset buttons in our minds, and the games before don’t mean anything. It’s one game at a time, one period at a time, one shift at a time. Hopefully we approach it like that.”

The Bruins finally broke their power-play drought when Chara beat Bobrovsky during a two-man advantage with 1:22 left in the game. Until that goal, Chara’s second of the game, the Bruins had gone 0 for 30 in the playoffs with a man advantage.

  When the Bruins beat Montreal in seven games in the first round, they became the first team in N.H.L. history to win a best-of-seven series without scoring a power-play goal.

SLAP SHOTS

Jeff Carter, the Flyers’ leading scorer in the regular season, returned after a five-game absence for a knee injury…. Defenseman Chris Pronger missed his second straight game with an undisclosed injury believed to involve the broken hand that forced him to sit out the last six weeks of the regular season.

Posted by: JEFF Z. KLEIN

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