BOSTON - Facing elimination, the Flyers have a simple goal on Friday night at TD Garden: win a game and plant some seeds of doubt in the collective minds of the Boston Bruins.
In other words, get the Bruins to start thinking about last year's colossal collapse, when they lost the last four games in the Eastern Conference semifinals - and blew a 3-0 lead in Game 7.
Boston leads this year's rematch, three games to none, just as it did at this point last season.
Game 4 is Friday night in Boston.
"I think just one win would give us that confidence, and it's going to make them think about what happened last year," Flyers center Claude Giroux said after Thursday's practice at TD Garden. "Just one win would just put us back in the mix, and then going back in front of our fans, I have no doubt that we can get a win" at the Wells Fargo Center.
Winger Scott Hartnell said the Flyers were "going to try to relish this opportunity and go out there and disappoint these fans in Game 4, and then they'll start thinking, 'Oh, man. Oh, man. What's going to happen here? Is it going to be a repeat of last year?' "
There are some major differences, however. The Bruins, who are one win away from reaching the conference finals for the first time since 1992, are healthier and have better goaltending this spring. Oh, and they are playing Game 4 at home, where their rabid fans want to watch The Payback.
Every enjoyable second of it.
"The biggest thing again will be putting the past aside and thinking about the present," Boston coach Claude Julien said.
"We learned from last year, obviously," Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. "The hardest game to win is the fourth game. But that was last year."
It shouldn't be as difficult this time because the Flyers are without their team leader, injured defenseman Chris Pronger, and their revolving goaltending is in disarray.
In the first three games, Boston has outscored the Flyers by 15-6.
The Flyers never got into a rhythm in their 5-1 loss Wednesday. Two Boston goals in the first 63 seconds were among the reasons. So was the fact that Boston won a staggering 78 percent of the faceoffs, after the Flyers had a slight edge in that department in the first two games.
"We're capable of giving more than we gave," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said of Wednesday's effort. "I truly believe that. We've done it so many times. Without making excuses, it wasn't good enough."
Laviolette said the Flyers need a quick start Friday night, need to establish control.
"One game at a time," Hartnell said. "You win Game 4, you get to live and breathe for Game 5, and we've been a good team in our building all year long, and then bring it back here for Game 6. But more importantly, [we're] just focusing on a big effort Friday night."
The Flyers deserved to win Game 2, but Tim Thomas stole a 3-2 overtime victory with his acrobatic goaltending. The other two games were Boston blowout wins, 7-3 and 5-1.
Hartnell acknowledged that "things have been a little tense around here" during the three-game losing streak, but he said the team was relaxed Thursday.
"You can't be down in the dumps. I think practice was up-tempo," Hartnell said. "Guys were having fun. We're still alive, and that's the main thing. We have to come up with a big effort."
After edging Buffalo in seven hard-fought games, the Flyers have seen their play deteriorate against the physical Bruins.
"It just seems like almost every aspect of our game has been a little bit of a letdown," said Hartnell, who has managed just one goal in 10 playoff games this year. "Sometimes we're not getting the pucks out; sometimes we're not getting those shots from the slot. We're one-and-done around the net. Our game is relentless hockey, shift after shift. It just seems we haven't been consistent with it."
In the last two playoff seasons, the Flyers are 6-1 in elimination games.
"We just have to remember last year," Hartnell said. "We have to believe."
They have no other choice.