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Can Flyers rally from series deficit? Boucher's been there, done that

THERE IS AN historical parallel that Brian Boucher can draw from heading into tonight's crucial Game 3. Today is (sort of) the 10th anniversary of the five-overtime marathon win over Pittsburgh in Game 4 of a 2000 playoff series. Actually, the game started on May 4, but it didn't end until May 5 at about 2:30 a.m. when Keith Primeau roofed a shot past Ron Tugnutt for a 2-1 win. Boucher made 57 saves that night.

THERE IS AN historical parallel that Brian Boucher can draw from heading into tonight's crucial Game 3.

Today is (sort of) the 10th anniversary of the five-overtime marathon win over Pittsburgh in Game 4 of a 2000 playoff series. Actually, the game started on May 4, but it didn't end until May 5 at about 2:30 a.m. when Keith Primeau roofed a shot past Ron Tugnutt for a 2-1 win. Boucher made 57 saves that night.

"That was one helluva game," Boucher recalled. "It was a crazy, crazy game. I can still hear that sound of when Primeau [scored]. He hit the back bar and there was a 'clunk' that I'll never forget. Thankfully it ended then because I don't know how much I had left in the tank."

Boucher, then a 23-year-old rookie, makes a correlation between that series and the 0-2 jam the Flyers find themselves in heading into tonight's Game 3 against the Bruins. In 2000, the Flyers also trailed 0-2, but . . .

"It was a little different circumstance," he said. "We lost our first two home games and then had to go on the road. As I recall, Game 3 was sluggish at the start and we ended up going overtime and got an overtime winner [scored by Andy Delmore]. Then the big game in Game 4."

The Flyers went on to win that series in six.

"We were pretty down going to Pittsburgh, feeling pretty bad about ourselves," Boucher continued. "We were going on the road and hadn't played well the first two games. We're at home here."

Tonight will be the first time the Flyers have played at the Wachovia Center since smacking New Jersey, 4-1, in Game 4 of their first-round series on April 20.

"It feels like it's been a while," said Danny Briere, one of just two Flyers forwards to score a goal in this series. "It's one of the best places to play in the playoffs. I'm certainly very excited. I love getting on the ice at the start of the game. The crowd is just amazing. There's no better way to get motivated for a game and I can't wait to feel that."

Mike Richards is the other forward who has been able to solve Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask (in addition to defensemen Chris Pronger and Ryan Parent). The captain has been the Flyers' best player even though he has seen enough of Zdeno Chara to tell what brand of deodorant the massive Bruins defenseman uses. In the first two games, Boston coach Claude Julien seized just about every chance he has had to make sure Chara was on the ice opposite Richards. Now, it's Peter Laviolette's turn.

With the Flyers the host team for Games 3 and 4, they are able to make the final changes during stoppages. Thus, Philadelphia's Laviolette can manipulate the matchups and get Richards (5-11, 195) away from Chara (6-9, 261).

"He's got a [very active] stick," Richards quipped. "It's long enough; probably bigger than me. He's always in the right position. And he's a tough guy to hit because I'm always running into his hips."

The only other thing Laviolette is hoping for as the series shifts to South Broad Street is getting the lead. In the 133 minutes, 52 seconds that this series has lasted, the Flyers have yet to be in front. Constantly playing from behind is like climbing Mount Everest, and just before you're set to begin the hike somebody hands you a piano.

Continually trailing in this series has forced Laviolette to shorten his rotation, which, because of injuries to Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Ian Laperriere, already is thin.

"Getting the first goal really would help," Laviolette said. "Putting ourselves in a position where we can play with the lead as opposed to chasing it. A lead would be nice and then maybe the bench can roll a little bit better and we won't feel like we have to get certain guys back out there."

Richards, Briere and Claude Giroux each played at least 20 minutes in Game 2 on Monday, a healthy amount for forwards. During the regular season, the Flyers were 8-25 when allowing the first goal, a .242 winning percentage that was among the worst in the league. They did, however, win two games after allowing the Devils to score first in the last playoff round.

"It would be nice," Briere agreed. "Both games [against Boston] we were in the hole [early]. We haven't played with the lead yet in this series. At the same time, if it doesn't happen we still have to show that desperation to climb back and find a way to win no matter what."

The Flyers have won five of their last six home games with the lone loss a laudable, 1-0, effort against Montreal on April 2. An orange-clad optimist might even point out that the Flyers also are the only playoff team that hasn't lost at home - though that streak is all of two games against the Devils.

"It's no secret that we wanted to get at least one [win] in Boston and that didn't happen," Boucher said. "But we've played good hockey at home. We're excited to be back home. Our focus is Game 3. If we win Game 3, we're right back in it."

Kind of like 2000, he hopes.

Center of attention

A number of players said yesterday that getting in front of the rowdies in South Philly will make a huge difference in turning around a series the Flyers trail, 0-2.

This assessment is reflected by a poll of 272 NHL players in this week's Sports Illustrated in which the Wachovia Center was rated as the fourth-toughest arena for opponents. But the Flyers' confidence can only go so far. The top four places have two things in common. One good. One not so good.

First, that the teams that occupy those buildings are still alive in this year's playoffs. Second, those tenants never have won a Stanley Cup while at the facility. Only Detroit, whose building ranked fifth-toughest, has actually won a Cup while at its current home. The list:

Year

Team BuildingOpened Pct.

San Jose HP Pavilion1993 19

Montreal Bell Centre1996 14

Chicago United Center1994 13

Flyers Wachovia Center1996 12

Detroit Joe Louis Arena1979 10

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