It's rare that an NHL game feels like a one-on-one confrontation. But, in this Game 2 in Philadelphia, with the hometown Flyers down 1-0 in the series, their signature standout was James Van Riemsdyk. He scored 29 seconds into the game, beating Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas before he could even get limber. Before the period was half over, Van Riemsdyk scored again and the Flyers were looking to roll, with JVR netting two on the Flyers' first eight shots on goal.
Meanwhile, Thomas had to build to top form after yielding those early markers. It helped that before the first period was over, his Bruins teammates had in fact countered with two goals of their own. All night, it became van Riemsdyk vs. Thomas. The rest of the players served as mere supporting characters as the two stars stood above the rest. Every time JVR hit the ice, it seemed he was either getting in alone on Thomas or setting up a teammate for a quality look. As the game wore on, though, Thomas got the upper hand on all of the Flyers, repelling 22 shots in the third period alone -- and a dozen more in overtime.
This game had tempo and pace and plenty of offensive action -- more so than many anticipated -- at least from the Boston standpoint. The Flyers figured to come out strong after their embarrassing 7-3 loss in Game 1. The Bruins wouldn't be faulted if they played a conservative road game in trying to sweep the front-end road games of the East semis. Instead, they chose to play along with the Flyers' full-ice frenzied approach, which made for a wildly entertaining affair. It also meant lots of quality scoring chances directed at both goalies.
Speaking of which, while Brian Boucher was fine for the Flyers after getting hooked in Game 1 -- he ended up leaving after the second period with a leg bump, only to return for the third period and overtime -- he was still no match for his counterpart. With Philly unable to have a starter play all the minutes yet again -- granted, wacky scenario this time and not performance-related -- the Bruins' stability at that position allowed the final outcome to be a possibility. The Flyers answered the way we all figured -- hard on the puck and with attitude. The Bruins responded with a rousing effort of their own. The difference was Tim Thomas. Period.
Sure, David Krejci scored the OT game-winner on a nice feed from Nathan Horton. That's already the third time in the playoffs the B's top line has delivered the game-winner. Keeping the entire operation afloat, though, was Thomas with a career-best 52 saves -- 46 in a row after van Riemsdyk was doubly good in the first period. That seemed like a long time ago after Krejci whipped the game-clinching goal past Boucher. Before then, a tied series seemed not only possible, but probable. Now, Thomas and his Bruins head back to Boston with a 2-0 series lead and the knowledge they can beat the Flyers at their own game.
And they have the goaltending to do it.