When it came down to winning time, the Bruins once again got the best of the Flyers.
That has been the script between the two clubs in 2020-21, a season that is starting to feel like it's running out of time and must-win games for Alain Vigneault's bunch.
The Flyers fell short to the Bruins in another third period en route to a crushing 4-2 loss Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers (18-15-5) split the back-to-back set with Boston but allowed the Bruins to take three points. The Flyers slid into sixth place with Tuesday night's regulation loss. With 18 games left, they're five points back of the Bruins, who hold the final playoff spot in the East Division and have two games in hand on the Flyers. To complicate the club's chances, via tiebreakers, the Rangers jumped the Flyers for fifth place.
The Bruins (20-10-6) are 6-0-1 against the Flyers this season. The teams meet once more Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.
• In their regular-season series, the Bruins have been the better team when it matters most.
There has been a definitive difference in crunch time.
The Bruins have scored a total of 14 goals over the first two periods against the Flyers. They've matched that with 14 in the third period and one in overtime against the Flyers.
Brad Marchand wrote the latest to the story of Boston's third-period dominance when he scored a shorthanded goal to break a 2-2 tie with 11:39 left in regulation. To no surprise, Marchand was an agitator all game ... and very good. He finished with four points (one goal, three assists) and delivered the game-winner when the Flyers were up a skater.
"We just lost the puck at the wrong place there," Vigneault said postgame. "Guys are trying to make the right play and they’ve got two of the best penalty-killers and two of the best forwards in the league that were able to capitalize."
The Flyers' power play has gone 5 for 23 against the Bruins this season.
Patrice Bergeron scored a hat trick capped by an empty-netter to finish things off. The four-time Selke Trophy winner has seven goals and 13 points in seven matchups with the Flyers this season.
"We knew what was at stake going into this game," Vigneault said. "I thought our guys played with urgency, I thought we played the right way, we checked when it was time to check, we didn’t give them a lot of looks. We got some great looks, we weren’t able to finish and they were able to finish. That was the difference in tonight’s game."
• Carter Hart made 22 saves on 25 shots and was fine. Boston's second goal came on its power play and the third was Marchand finishing off a 2-on-1. Hart was not a problem and gave the Flyers a chance.
Jeremy Swayman, a 22-year-old like Hart, made his NHL debut for the Bruins, who were without Tuukka Rask (upper-body injury) and Jaroslav Halak (positive coronavirus test).
The Flyers put Swayman under siege. He more than held his own by making 40 saves for his first career NHL win.
• The Flyers played one of their best periods of the season in the middle frame as they were tasked with erasing another deficit. They outshot Boston 25-7 and had 38 shots overall at second intermission.
Jakub Voracek and Shayne Gostisbehere drew the Flyers even at 2-2 just 4:03 minutes into the second period.
Voracek's goal came off a nice feed from Travis Konecny. Gostisbehere, playing his third game since clearing waivers, surpassed his goal total from last season. He has six markers in 28 games after scoring five over 42 games of a difficult, injury-marred 2019-20 campaign.
The Flyers were thoroughly dominant in those 20 minutes. No team is ever going to be that good consistently, but it's evidence that if the Flyers play that get-after-you, forecheck-based game, they're a pretty tough out.
"Obviously you would like to start a game like that, but there's a little more urgency when you're down two goals and you need a big win — we came out with a vengeance," Gostisbehere said. "For us, just playing that hockey, realize what we were doing out there — we were chipping pucks in deep, going to work and making it hard to play against. That's our hockey right there."
• But about those starts ...
The Flyers stayed out of the box until Nicolas Aube-Kubel was whistled for holding with 3:22 left in the first period. The 24-year-old winger has committed a team-most 14 penalties this season.
Boston's vaunted power play cashed in like it often does as Bergeron handed the Bruins a 2-0 lead with his second goal of the game.
The Flyers once again made themselves play a game of catchup. Since March, the Flyers have been outscored 31-10 in the first period over a stretch of 20 games. The 31 goals are the most allowed in the NHL in that span.
Just as troubling, the Flyers have trailed by multiple goals in 14 of their last 20 games. To their credit, they looked like gangbusters in the second period Tuesday night. But then they didn't finish and had only four shots in the final stanza.
By the period, the Flyers have been way too hit or miss.
• During the game, Joel Farabee was moved down to the fourth line. He played 12:29 minutes.
A fresh Oskar Lindblom climbed the lineup and played 13:18.
• Robert Hagg, who has missed the last 11 games with a shoulder injury, is close to being available for added depth on the Flyers' back end.
"I believe he's a couple of days here from being ready to play and 100 percent," Vigneault said before the game. "I think if we would have needed him and I would have tugged his jersey a little bit there, he would have given me the OK, but right now our defense the last two games has played well, so we're going to stick with the same group."
• The Flyers travel to New York on Wednesday afternoon ahead of a matchup with the Islanders on Thursday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).
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