They outscored opponents 94-57 in the third period in regular season. In the postseason, they've waited even longer, going 4-0 in overtime games. But with a chance to close out the Flyers in four games one year after Philadelphia rallied to eliminate the Bruins in the same round, the Bruins reverted back to doing their best work in the third period.
Needing one more big third-period effort as they entered the final frame of Friday's Game 4 against the Flyers knotted at 1-1 proved no problem for a club that had thrived under such pressure all year.
"It was an actual comment I made to the team, 'Third periods are ours,'" Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said. "I just said that to reinforce and remind guys that that's the way it's been all year to hopefully help their confidence."
The message was received. Johnny Boychuk broke the tie with a blast from the right point just 2:42 into the third, and the floodgates opened late as Boston scored four unanswered goals in the third for a 5-1 victory, a four-game sweep of Philadelphia and the franchise's first trip to the conference finals since 1992.
"We were pretty confident," forward Brad Marchand said. "We've been the best third-period team all year long, and we wanted to use that to our advantage, and it worked out pretty well."
Marchand scored one of two empty-net goals in the closing minutes to put the game out of reach. That came after Milan Lucic, who came into the night without a goal in the playoffs, scored his second of the game at 15:03 to make it 3-1. Daniel Paille added another empty-netter in the final minute to complete the carnage.
"We were confident in ourselves," forward Gregory Campbell said. "We knew [the Flyers] were going to push. It was 1-1 going into the third and their playoff lives were on the line, so we knew they were going to give us that push and we had to stay poised and patient. And we did. We held them off and got that goal. That was our game plan with Philly, was to stay patient and play well defensively. And if we did that we were going to get our chances offensively and we did tonight."
The final period didn't go off without any hitches. The Flyers did make a strong push and the Bruins, playing without Patrice Bergeron after he was injured early in the frame and having shortened their bench on defense, did make a few mistakes as legs got heavy.
"The result was great, we played a really good third period," Thomas said. "But you did see a little bit of the fatigue set in because we weren't getting pucks in deep there at their blue line and there were a couple of mistakes that we don't usually make, but guys battled through it."
And it was the knowledge this team had found a way to win so many games in the final stages all through the year that helped the Bruins fight through the miscues they did make and pull out a memorable victory.
"I think that's one thing that the guys really have confidence in," coach Claude Julien said. "They know that in the third period we've been a pretty strong team this year. So going into the third we're a confident group. We believe in our ability to win hockey games and certainly that's played a big role in the playoffs here, knowing that we can do that."
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