BOSTON (AP) - Finally, the Boston Bruins can forget history and try to make it.
No need for any more talk about being only the third NHL team to lose a series after winning the first three games. It's time to take the next step in their quest for their first Stanley Cup in 39 years.
The Bruins beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-1 on Friday night, completing a four-game sweep and advancing to the Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Last year, the Flyers staged that stunning comeback from a 3-0 deficit in the conference semis.
``It's something that has been hanging over our heads for over a year,' Boston coach Claude Julien said. ``You need to take time to appreciate what you have done, and, at the same time, you really have to stay focused because the toughest games are still to come.'
The Lightning also swept their series, eliminating the Washington Capitals. The Bruins have home-ice advantage in the next round. The schedule will be determined after the two Western Conference semifinals are finished, Sunday at the earliest.
Milan Lucic, who led Boston with 30 goals, scored his first two of the playoffs, and Johnny Boychuk broke a 1-1 tie at 2:42 of the third period. The Flyers' only goal was by Kris Versteeg, who went in alone on goalie Tim Thomas after Brad Marchand's pass was intercepted by Mike Richards.
Thomas, a Vezina Trophy finalist who led the league in goals-against average, allowed just seven goals in the series. The Bruins scored 20.
``They've got a good defensive system,' Richards said. ``We played loose defensive hockey and when you do that, good teams are going to make you pay.'
Last May, it was the Bruins who played porous defense, especially in Game 7 when they blew a 3-0 lead and lost 4-3.
``You hear all the talk about what happened last year and you have to ignore it to be able to do what we just did,' Thomas said. ``I'm glad that it's done with because the longer that series would have went, the more talk about last year.'
The Flyers faced the Chicago Blackhawks in the finals, losing in six games.
``It's disappointing whenever you end the season on a loss,' Richards said. ``It's a slippery slope when you stop playing your brand of hockey.'
When it was over - after empty-net goals by Marchand and Daniel Paille boosted the volume on the fans' cheers - Boychuk embraced Thomas in front of the Bruins net.
His goal came on a 50-foot slapshot from the right after a faceoff in the left circle.
``I was very happy,' Thomas said, but ``I was just trying to get refocused because I knew there was a lot of hockey left.'
The opposing goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, who started Game 1 of the series, got the start again with the season on the line instead of Brian Boucher, who had been ineffective in Games 2 and 3.
Bobrovsky ``gave us an opportunity to win the game,' Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. ``It was 1-1 in the third period.'
Lucic had scored a power-play goal with 7:58 left in the first period before Versteeg connected with about 6 1/2 minutes to go in the second. After Boychuk's goal, Lucic scored again with 5 minutes left.
That's when Thomas allowed himself to think, ``Hey, this could be it. We could win this game.'
The Bruins have won eight of nine since losing the first two of the opening round to Montreal and are aiming for their first Stanley Cup title since 1972 when Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr were the NHL's top two scorers. Tampa Bay won its only championship in 2004.
The Bruins won the opener in Philadelphia 7-3, then took the second game 3-2 in overtime before returning home for a 5-1 win on Wednesday night.
``They took it to us right from the start,' Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. ``My first reaction is that we got beat by a better team in this series. They deserve to be moving on.'
In Julien's first two seasons as coach, the Bruins were eliminated in the first and second rounds. Last year, they wasted four chances against the Flyers to move into the third.
``I think guys are gaining some experience from some of those series from years past,' Bruins president Cam Neely said. ``History is great if you can learn from it.'
Notes: Patrice Bergeron, one of Boston's top players in these playoffs, didn't return after being hit by Claude Giroux just before Boychuk's goal. Julien didn't have an update on his condition. ... The Flyers were swept 4-0 for the first time since losing to Detroit in the 1997 Stanley Cup finals. ... Philadelphia was without D Chris Pronger for the third straight game because of a hand injury. ... Boston D Adam McQuaid missed his second consecutive game with a sprained neck after crashing into the boards headfirst in Game 2.
The Associated Press News Service
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