He was surprised to find it back on the ice when he went back out for a postgame curtain call.
“I thought maybe my head—something’s wrong here,” said the Boston Bruins forward, who missed the last 18 games of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs because of a concussion. “I thought it was a treat for somebody. So, thanks for giving it back.”
In his first game in almost two months, Savard scored on a delayed penalty 13:52 into overtime on Saturday to give the Bruins a 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“It’s been a whirlwind for me. Obviously, I went through a lot of tough days,” said Savard, who received a big cheer for his first shift. “When I got out there, there was a little water in my eyes at first. The crowd treated me great. My teammates were great with me all day. And I just wanted to fit in. … I guess you can’t script it any better.”
Tuukka Rask(notes) stopped 32 shots for Boston, Dennis Wideman(notes) had three assists, and Miroslav Satan(notes) and Patrice Bergeron(notes) each had a goal and an assist. Brian Boucher(notes) stopped 41 shots, and Mike Richards(notes) had a goal and two assists for the Flyers.
But the star was Savard.
“Any time a guy steps into your lineup and hasn’t played in two months and scores the game-winner you’ve got to take it with a smile,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “I guess it makes for some good writing, doesn’t it?”
Game 2 is Monday night in Boston.
Savard was injured March 7 on an unpenalized hit from Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke(notes) that prompted the NHL to ban blindside hits to the head. The Bruins forward, who was cleared to return this week, skated just six abbreviated shifts in the first period, but Julien threw him out there more as the game went on.
In overtime, with the Flyers due to receive a penalty in their own end, he outraced a defender to a loose puck at the right circle and slapped it past Boucher and under the crossbar.
“He put it in a great spot,” Boucher said. “But that’s why they’re glad to have him back.”
Boston took a 2-0 lead in the first 13 minutes and still led 4-2 with under 8 minutes left. Richards cut the deficit to one goal with 7:23 to play, then Danny Briere(notes) outmuscled two defenders to go in alone on Rask and tie it with 3:22 left.
“It is a small (consolation) prize, I guess. But we still lost the game,” Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger(notes) said. “It stinks because we came back and played a pretty good second (period ) and a very good third. They were fortunate enough to get that last one. It’s something we can build on, that’s for sure.”
The game was a rematch of the New Year’s Day Winter Classic, and a rare second-round matchup of teams that needed to win on the final weekend just to reach the playoffs. Boston beat the third-seeded Buffalo Sabres in the first round in six games, and Philadelphia upset the second-seeded New Jersey Devils in five.
“We’ve been in a tough grind all year trying to get into this thing,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “We need to be better, and we will be better.”
Sixth-seeded Boston inherited home-ice advantage against seventh-seeded Philadelphia when the top-seeded Washington Capitals lost their first-round series to Montreal.
And they got back Savard, their leading scorer last season.
“I’m just happy we made it to the second round and gave him a couple of more days to get back and a couple more practices,” said Bergeron, who missed the 2008 playoffs with a concussion. “It did help for him, and I am happy for him.”
Boston and Philadelphia hadn’t met in the playoffs since 1978, when the Big Bad Bruins beat the Broad Street Bullies in the second round for the second straight year.
Neither team has won the Stanley Cup since the ’70s.
One of them will reach the conference finals.
The Flyers never led in the game, but they never let it get away from them, either.
They fell behind 2-0 in the first on goals by Steve Begin(notes) and Bergeron. Ryan Parent(notes) scored for Philadelphia to cut the deficit to one in the second and, after Miroslav Satan made it 3-1 for Boston, Pronger got it back to a one-goal game with 4:12 left in the period.
It stayed that way until David Krejci(notes) dug a puck out of the corner, leaving it for Milan Lucic(notes) before heading to the slot. Lucic got him the puck, Krejci did a little stickhandling to force Boucher to commit and then beat him with 12:35 left in the third.
NOTES: Satan has a point in four consecutive playoff games. … The Flyers were without leading goal-scorer Jeff Carter(notes) (33 goals, 28 assists) and Simon Gagne(notes) (17, 23), who both have injuries to their right feet. … Bruins LW Marco Sturm(notes) left the game during the first shift, favoring his right leg. He couldn’t even get to his skates to leave the ice until a trainer came out to help him at the first whistle. … Bruins F Vladimir Sobotka(notes) was unavailable during part of the game for undisclosed reasons.