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Flyers won't die, beat Bruins to force Game 7

'DEATH" IS NOT a word in the Flyers' version of Merriam-Webster. And for this team, the "easy road" is just about as fairy tale as the Yellow Brick Road.

'DEATH" IS NOT a word in the Flyers' version of Merriam-Webster.

And for this team, the "easy road" is just about as fairy tale as the Yellow Brick Road.

Just 6 days ago, the Eastern Conference finals were a pipe dream. Trailing 3-0 in their best-of-seven series with Boston, the Flyers were dead in the water.

They were written off. They were beaten. They were banged up, starting last night's game without Brian Boucher, the goaltender who carried them through the first round.

Tomorrow night, the Eastern Conference finals are no longer a dream - they are a reality. And the Flyers are very much alive.

The Flyers knocked off the Boston Bruins, 2-1, in Game 6 last night at the jam-packed Wachovia Center to even up their series and become the first team since the 1975 New York Islanders to force Game 7 when trailing three-games-to-none.

Game 7 is tomorrow night at the TD Garden, where the Flyers are 1-2 in the first three games.

Out of 281 tries, only three teams in the NHL, MLB and NBA have won a Game 7 after trailing 3-0 in a series.

"We're the [first] team in the NHL to come back [to Game 7 since 1975]," Danny Briere said. "We know what's at stake. It's pretty special. To come all the way back and not win, that's not good enough. I want to be part of those three teams.

"We know that the toughest is yet to come."

Unbelievably, the Flyers are one win away from hosting the Eastern Conference finals as the seventh seed in the playoffs, since the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens stunned Pittsburgh last night in Game 7 of their second-round series to eliminate the defending champion Penguins and close out Mellon Arena.

A win tomorrow night would give the Flyers their fourth trip to the conference finals in the last 10 years.

But Game 7 - and anything beyond that - couldn't come without a win last night. For the third game in a row, a loss would have ended the Flyers' season.

For the second game in a row, the Flyers called the first shot - last night when Mike Richards scored before 7 minutes had ticked off the clock.

Richards caused the 19,929 fans at the Wachovia Center to explode to their feet when he whacked in a loose puck sitting in front of Tuukka Rask after a scrambling sequence of scoring chances.

The play started with Kimmo Timonen's blind, through-the-legs pass, which squirted to Simon Gagne in the slot. Gagne nearly beat Rask then, but his rebound came out to Richards, who couldn't possibly miss an empty net from that close.

"We didn't want to put ourselves in a vulnerable position," Richards said. "We came out physical. I thought we played well in the first period."

The Bruins didn't go quietly. After the Flyers opened the scoring, Boston controlled the play for much of the remainder of the first period and well into the second.

And then the Flyers woke up again, thanks to a two-man advantage on the power play late in the second period. Skating with a two-man edge, they parked Chris Pronger in front of Rask to battle with 6-9 Zdeno Chara. He lost. Pronger bumped Chara and was sent to the box, limiting the Flyers' attack to a four-on-three advantage.

That didn't matter.

Briere tried to find Claude Giroux on the far post but instead found his own pass in his skates and blasted a shot behind Rask to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead 16:20 into the second period.

In the third period, the Flyers called on starter du jour Michael Leighton - making his first career playoff start and his first overall since March 16 when he went down with a high ankle sprain - and anything and anyone else they could for good luck, including the goal post.

"I thought Mike looked as good tonight as he did when he came in and pinch-hit for 'Boosh' halfway through the [Game 5]," coach Peter Laviolette said. "He looked in control of his net, not a lot of second opportunities, he looked big, he looked square - I guess all the things you want to say about your goaltender when the end of the night comes around."

Ville Leino could have increased the Flyers' lead to three goals with 7:21 remaining when he was handed a penalty shot. He went in on Rask - the goalie he has known since they were kids growing up in the same town in Savonlinna, Finland - and was stoned on his backhand.

Leighton, who finished with 30 saves, was finally beaten by Milan Lucic on a rebound with exactly 1 minute left in regulation, forcing Laviolette to call a timeout and to have his team regroup. They hung on for 60 seconds, to have a shot for another 60 minutes.

It wasn't easy. The Flyers won last night - and knotted this series - the hard way. But that's not anything new. That's the way they've done it all season.

"You know it's certainly not a path that you would like to choose, you know, you'd rather have done things differently through the course of the year and then the playoffs," Laviolette said. "Every time they are pushed, they push back. They just won't quit, they won't go away, and it's become a strength of ours. I feel like we are conditioned to it now."

Now, they're on the cusp of history.

"It's not always the easiest route," Pronger said. "It's not always pretty. But we seem to find a way."

Slap shots

Mike Richards also assisted on Danny Briere's goal, giving him eight points in the first six games of this series . . . James van Riemsdyk played under 10 minutes and did not register a shot on goal . . . The Flyers blocked 30 shots, three times as many as Boston . . . Boston won 61 percent of the faceoffs, tying its series high.