BOSTON -- A perfect start Wednesday night has put the Boston Bruins in position to exorcise yet another playoff demon.
In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at TD Garden, the home side blitzed Philadelphia for two goals in the first 63 seconds of the game, kick-starting a dominating team effort that culminated with a 5-1 victory.
"You always want to have a good start, especially at home," said Boston captain Zdeno Chara, who opened the scoring 30 seconds after the opening faceoff. "But yeah, I mean we scored the first two, three shifts of the game. So it's always huge and I thought that gave us really good momentum for the first 20 (minutes) at least."
Boston built on that momentum for the next 40 minutes, chasing Philadelphia goalie Brian Boucher yet again in the process.
Boston holds a 3-0 lead in the second-round series -- the same lead it held against Philadelphia at this juncture of last season's Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As we all know, things went horribly wrong for Boston from that point as the Bruins lost the next four games to become just the third team in the history of the NHL to blow a three-game lead in a best-of-seven series.
Boston insists they are not thinking about last year's collapse -- only about closing out these Flyers and moving on to the next round.
"We learned last year that the fourth win is the hardest," said Boston goalie Tim Thomas, who finished with 37 saves. Thomas watched last season as Tuukka Rask served as Boston's starter in the Philadelphia series. "We are playing one game at a time, one period at a time, and one shift at a time. We are going to try to play it the same way come Friday."
The Bruins already have some experience in bucking history this postseason.
The Bruins had to erase an 0-2 deficit against Montreal in the opening round to force -- and win -- a Game 7, the team's first Game 7 victory in almost 20 years and just the team's ninth win in 33 tries against their Original Six tormentors from across the border.
So can the Bruins cast off the Flyers, who have tried to play last season's historic comeback as a trump card throughout this series?
Only time will tell, but Wednesday's performance certainly suggests it can happen.
Virtually everything went right for the Bruins on this night, starting with the pre-game announcement that Philadelphia defenseman Chris Pronger would miss his second straight game with an unspecified injury.
Chara, the NHL's hardest shooter, struck just 30 seconds into the game, unleashing a howitzer of a shot from the top of the left circle that found its way under the crossbar. Thirty-three seconds later, Flyer killer David Krejci scored against Boucher and the Bruins were in command.
"We knew they were going to come out hard and we did a great job countering that, getting two goals the first two shifts, so that was huge for our team," said forward Brad Marchand, who set up Chara's goal with some good work down low. "We were able to kind of hold them off for a while and I think that's what kind of took the game for us."
After Boston scored three straight goals in Game 2 – including the winner in OT – the Bruins' fast start was not what the Flyers wanted to see as they tried to claw back in the series.
"It's not the start that we envisioned," said Boucher, who was pulled after allowing four goals on 20 shots in less than 40 minutes of play. "You want to get off to a good start and it didn't happen today."
Things just got worse from there for the Flyers -- Boston kept its foot on the gas, taking the game to the Flyers throughout the contest.
The Bruins' fourth line scored a goal on an odd-man rush capped by a sweet shot from Daniel Paille at 13:39 of the second period. Nathan Horton fired home his fifth of the postseason on a solid individual effort to make it 4-0 at 15:14, ending Boucher's night.
Andrej Meszaros finally broke the spell of Thomas, who had stopped 68 shots dating back to his brilliance in the final 60 minutes of Game 2. But they rarely threatened the rest of the way, and Boston added salt to the wound with a power-play goal that ended its suffocating man-advantage drought at 30 power plays from the start of the postseason. Again it was Chara who scored the goal after fantastic puck movement around Philadelphia's penalty-killing triangle during a 5-on-3 advantage.
But it wasn't just the score that showed Boston's dominance. It was evident in every aspect of the game. Boston won 43 of the game's 55 faceoffs. The Bruins almost doubled the amount of blocked shots registered by the Flyers and delivered the game's bigger hits.
"If a guy is not scoring or putting up points, they are contributing huge in different ways," said Paille, who had a statement hit on Kris Versteeg in the first period. "So it's certainly nice to see it from everybody getting a great effort."
Philadelphia will need several straight great efforts if they hope to repeat last year's comeback against the Bruins. They know it will have to begin in Friday's Game 4.
"I'll throw a whole bunch clichés at you and one game at a time, one day at a time, one period at a time," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "But that's really all we can think about. We can't think about winning four in row. We can't think of any of that stuff, we just have to come and play the way we know we can and keep getting traffic and win a period, and hopefully win a game, and get to Game 5.
"That's all we can do right now."