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Phil Sheridan: Mistakes turn a strong effort into defeat

The Flyers kept waiting for the scoreboard to catch up to their level of play in this second-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins. It never did, and now it's too late.

The Flyers kept waiting for the scoreboard to catch up to their level of play in this second-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins. It never did, and now it's too late.

They would have to win four consecutive games after three losses in which they held the lead for all of 1 minute, 39 seconds. That would require a miracle, and then three more miracles.

Hope evaporated because, even though the Flyers largely outplayed the Bruins on Wednesday night, they also made the bigger mistakes. And that will wind up being the epitaph as the Flyers relent in their pursuit of the Cup. They got enough from their top players to win, but their secondary players did enough to lose.

"We can't change the way we play," defenseman Chris Pronger said. "We can't change the program just because we're down 3-0."

"I like the way we played," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "I don't like the scoreboard."

Hope evaporated, to be exact, just more than four minutes into this game. The Flyers had jumped to their very first lead of the series on a pretty goal. Claude Giroux, muzzled by matchups in Boston, played point guard on a two-on-one with Arron Asham, who was mostly benched in Boston. Perfect pass, perfect shot, and the Wachovia Center crowd believed the series was under control.

A little more than a minute and a half later, there was a face-off to Brian Boucher's left, Mike Richards vs. Marc Savard. The linesman, Brad Lazarowich, leaned forward and talked to Richards for a few seconds, then dropped the puck. Richards won the draw, jerking the puck back behind him.

It got by one defenseman, Ryan Parent. The other, Lukas Krajicek, sent the puck up the boards, right to Boston's Matt Hunwick. Hunwick fired a pass over to Blake Wheeler, and he drove it past Boucher on his stick side.

That was it. The Flyers couldn't hold their only lead for two full minutes. Within another two minutes, they were trailing, 2-1. The air went out of the crowd and, ultimately, the Flyers themselves.

"We finally got a lead," Danny Briere said, "and we gave it right back up."

"That changes everything," Laviolette said. "We came out in the game, and I thought we were just storming. Our strides were strong everywhere. Then you look up at the scoreboard eight minutes in and we're down, 2-1. I think that lead is important."

In the third period, Laviolette broke up the Parent/Krajicek defensive pairing that had been so prone to turnovers and getting trapped in the Flyers' zone. But it was too late. The Flyers never scored again, and so the Bruins didn't really have to - especially after another gift goal made it 3-1 in the third period.

The Bruins were on the power play, which had looked disorganized and dysfunctional all game. This one was no exception. Then Zdeno Chara fired a shot from the point that was headed off the glass behind the net. But it hit the only man other than Chara who is big enough to block it. The puck bounced off Pronger's shoulder and skipped across the crease to Mark Recchi, who flipped it into the open side of the net.

"Plays like that are going to happen," Pronger said. "It's how we respond and how we bounce back."

They didn't respond very well. With the crowd silenced and the Bruins dropping back into a defensive trap, the Flyers seemed to go into a shell of their own.

Richards, the captain, was asked if the lack of emotion surprised him.

"A little bit, yeah," he said. "Maybe it was just a turning point with the goal, but yeah, I was kind of surprised."

So now they face a challenge that has been met exactly twice in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs. And they have to try to win four games without Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Ian Laperriere. Attrition is starting to catch up to the Bruins - they lost David Krejci and Adam McQuaid to go along with Marco Sturm - but they have to win only once more.

It is a steep mountain in front of the Flyers.

"It may look like a mountain if you look at the whole [thing]," Richards said. "If you break it down, it's just one game after another. You just take it step by step."

"Hopefully, we can create some of the bounces that they've been getting so far in this series," Briere said. "The only way we can do that is to keep trying, keep going."

They will do that much. Anything less would be a huge disappointment, and would cast a pall on Laviolette's first playoff run with this team. Anything less would undermine the good that came from winning in the first round.

The Flyers will keep trying, but the Bruins will keep playing.