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Friday, May 14, 2010
Updated: May 15, 11:32 AM ET
Too many men? Too much misery

By Matt Kalman
ESPNBoston.com

Flyers
Marc Savard, who was to blame for the penalty that led to the winning goal, reacts as the game ends.

BOSTON -- There was no masking Bruins winger Mark Recchi's disgust with the too-many-men penalty that set up Philadelphia's winning power-play goal Friday night.

"The guy just jumped on and off," Recchi said after Simon Gagne capped the Flyers' 4-3 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series with Boston. "It was a terrible call. Game 7, 3-3 game, it's a terrible call. The ref didn't call it; the linesman called it. It was not a very good call. Not at this point of the game. Not when it happens all night. So …"

So the NHL has focused on enforcing the too-many-men rule since the drop of the first playoff puck. According to TSN, there have been 33 calls of that infraction in the postseason. That's why the Bruins should have been a lot more careful about the line change that will go down in infamy.

Not that it's never happened to Boston before.

Former Bruins coach Don Cherry has never revealed the identity of the player who was the extra man in 1979 on the call that cost the Bruins Game 7 of their Stanley Cup semifinal series with Montreal. But Friday there was no denying that Marc Savard messed up, with a little help from Vladimir Sobotka.

"I was coming back and then no one jumped so I stayed on," Savard said. "I'm not sure what happened after that. I went back to get on the puck and then, I don't know."

Sobotka explained it this way:

Marc Savard
Indecision by Marc Savard led to confusion on the Bruins bench, which led to the fateful penalty that helped sink Boston.

"I don't really know. I just saw that Savvy was changing, and I heard my name, so I jumped on the ice and there were six guys on the ice.

"I thought he was coming for a change. I didn't see that he went back for the backcheck."

Sobotka didn't want to get into who called his name. It doesn't matter. Obviously more than one person thought Savard was getting a change and his decision to not hit the bench cost the Bruins.

If there was any question about who was at fault, coach Claude Julien cleared it up without criticizing anyone by name.

"We had a player come to the bench and had his stick up like he wanted to change, and he changes his mind and we had the next centerman jumping on," Julien said. "So they made that call. He made kind of a loop and came right back to the bench. The puck was in the corner, but they call those. They're calling them through the whole playoffs, so we'll leave it at that."

Julien, whose team finished the season with 14 too-many-men infractions, was asked later about what the Bruins could have done to avoid the penalty.

"We keep telling our players, if you're going to come off, you've got to come off," the coach said, "and if you're going to stay, you've got to stay. So again, there was a little bit of hesitation."

If a team is on its way to blowing both a 3-0 series lead (the third team in NHL history to do that) and a 3-0 lead in the game, it could at least do it with a little more honor.

"It's one of those things you try to avoid and you don't like to see it happen, especially in Game 7," captain Zdeno Chara said. "But it did, and our PK was really solid and strong throughout the whole series and throughout the whole playoffs. It's just unfortunate that they scored on that one."

Winger Shawn Thornton witnessed the mayhem from the bench.

"It's a pretty ballsy call," Thornton said. "There's seven minutes left when we had control of the puck and neither of the centermen who changed for each other touched the puck. The center who jumped on took two steps, button-hooked, and got back on the bench and was a nonfactor. [The Flyers] got a chance, and they capitalized."

They say you kill off the "good" penalties. Well, that means you get burned by the "bad" ones and that's what ensued after Savard and Sobotka's miscommunication. The rock-solid penalty killers failed to pounce on the loose puck, and rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask failed to make a game-saving stop.

The Bruins had more than seven minutes to make up for the miscue. They didn't.

As a result, another too-many-men call is added to the annals of Bruins disappointments.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.