At two of the most critical points in the Flyers' 3-2 overtime loss to Boston on Monday in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Mike Richards was exactly where he wanted to be.
With little more than four minutes remaining in the third period, and again early in overtime, the Flyers captain had the puck on his stick and was close enough to Bruins goalie Tim Thomas to count the beads of sweat dripping off his forehead.
But in both of those battles between ultracompetitive players, Thomas came out on top, using his impressive quickness and athleticism to deny Richards what likely would have been the decisive goal in the third and the game-winner in overtime.
Richards' lost opportunities were the most vivid illustration of the frustration the Flyers experienced against Thomas, who made 52 saves and stopped the last 46 shots. Richards had 10 shots to become only the second Flyer to put that many on net since 2000. James van Riemsdyk, who has been the Flyers' most dynamic skater in the postseason, had 10 in Game 6 against Buffalo in the first round.
Asked whether he could recall a game in which he had so many shots with nothing to show for them, Richards shook his head.
"Nope," he said Tuesday before the Flyers departed for Boston, where Game 3 will take place Wednesday with the Bruins holding a two-games-to-none lead.
Richards has 18 shots in the two games, but only one goal. If he continues to bombard the net at a similar pace, he believes the law of averages eventually will work in his favor.
"Going into the game, you go over things in your head about what you want to do, certain plays that you want to do," he said. "And I really felt if I had another eight shots like I had in Game 1, it would go in. I had 10 and it didn't, so it's frustrating. But if I keep throwing pucks toward the net, I feel if I get another 10 shots [in Game 3], I have a good feeling one of them is going to go in."
Richards may not have much time left to test his theory. Yeah, yeah, the Flyers won four straight against the Bruins last season after losing the first three games. But consider that irrelevant to this series. There are enough Bruins who weren't part of that stunning collapse to make it so, and Thomas is the most notable among them. A favorite to win his second Vezina Trophy in three years, Thomas was the backup to young Tuukka Rask at this time last season, bothered by a hip ailment that led to a subpar season.
"We've just got to keep getting pucks to the net and get traffic and make it hard for him to see the puck," Richards said. "He's an aggressive goaltender, so we have to get turnovers as much as possible so he can't come out of the crease too much."
Richards helped turn last year's series against the Bruins in the Flyers' favor when he drilled David Krejci early in Game 3 with an open-ice hit that knocked the talented center out of the rest of the series with a dislocated wrist.
So far, Krejci is getting his payback. He has three goals and two assists in the first two games and scored the game-winner in Monday's overtime.
Still, the Flyers seemed encouraged by the way they controlled the third period and much of overtime. Their thinking is if they continue playing at that level, good things will happen. It's the mind-set their captain will bring to Game 3.
"You can't do anything about the past game except learn from it and move on and focus on the next game," Richards said. "It's a big match for us [Wednesday] and we have to go out and play with a lot of urgency, like we did [Monday]. Boston obviously had us in this situation before. For us, I think we can't get discouraged by things that have happened."
Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or email@example.com.