BOSTON - Before Saturday night's game, a group of Flyers fans paraded a sign around TD Garden that read, "Eastern Conference Champs" - as if the Bruins' epic collapse in last season's conference semifinals weren't still on Bostonians' minds.
Last night's 2-1 overtime victory was the Flyers' first game in Boston since they overcame a 3-0 deficit in Game 7 - and a 3-0 series hole - to stun the Bruins and the hockey world.
Returning to the scene of the crime, the Flyers sent another reminder of how last season's series ended.
Mike Richards scored with three seconds left in overtime, lifting the Flyers to a riveting win and silencing a stunned sellout crowd.
Richards had two overtime goals erased recently - one against Calgary because Chris Pronger was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty, the other against San Jose because replays showed it was scored one-tenth of a second after the buzzer sounded. The Flyers lost both of those games in shoot-outs.
"I guess the third time is a charm," Richards said. "I actually didn't know how much time was left on the clock, so it's a good thing I didn't wait."
Skating down the right side on a three-on-one against defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, Richards contemplated feeding Kimmo Timonen. "I don't know if he (goalie Tim Thomas) was thinking pass for not, but I kind of surprised him with a quick shot," Richards said of his drive from the right circle.
James van Riemsdyk, who started the Game 7 comeback here last season, scored late in the second period, and Brian Boucher (35 saves) was brilliant in the nets. Again. Boucher has a 1.21 goals-against average in his last four games.
"I feel good. I'm just reading plays well, and the puck's hitting me," Boucher said.
After a Boston turnover in the neutral zone, van Riemsdyk took a pass from Claude Giroux and scored from the high slot, beating Tim Thomas to the short side with 1:21 left in the second period.
In a tight-checking game that had a playoff feel, van Riemsdyk's goal was the first allowed by Thomas against the Flyers since Danny Syvret beat him in the Winter Classic - a span of 135:54.
Boucher, making his first start in Boston since he was injured during Game 5 of last season's conference semifinals, was flawless in the first two periods as the Flyers held a 1-0 lead.
In the first 51/2 minutes of the third period, Boucher twice made superb stops on Patrice Bergeron, one from the slot, the other from deep inside the left circle.
Boucher couldn't be faulted for the tying goal, scored by Nathan Horton after a Pronger turnover with 10:17 left in the third period.
Boucher, a New Englander, made one of his best saves when he stopped Michael Ryder's second-period rebound during a five-minute Bruins power play - the result of Jody Shelley's major penalty and game misconduct. Racing behind the net, Shelley hit defenseman Adam McQuaid from behind, sending him hard to the ice. McQuaid later returned.
The league is expected to review the hit - and whether Shelley made an attempt to get the puck - and could issue a suspension.
The Flyers, starting a stretch of games against contenders, did a masterful job of keeping the Bruins outside on their five-minute power play. That turned out to be a key part of the win, one that gave the Flyers a 7-1-3 record in their last 11 games.
The arena had an electric feel to it during an intensely played game that was arguably the most competitive in the Flyers' season.
"The fans felt they wanted to get back at us for last year. It was a great atmosphere," Boucher said, "and we weathered the storm."
"It was definitely played at a high pace," van Riemsdyk said. " . . . and he (Richards) steps up in big situations."
Thirteen of the 18 Flyers skaters had blocked shots.
"I can't think of anybody I didn't like," said coach Peter Laviolette of his team's performance. "Our guys played hard for almost 65 minutes."
And didn't need a video replay to show they had beaten the clock.