PHILADELPHIA -- It's clear now.
All the adversity the Boston Bruins faced during the regular season has only made them stronger. So strong, that despite losing two players in the first period of Game 3, Boston still found a way to beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 en route to a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Krejci dislocated his right wrist and will miss the rest of the playoffs, which is a big loss for the Black and Gold. Krejci was on the receiving end of a clean open-ice hit by the Flyers' Mike Richards and was clearly shaken up on the play. McQuaid was hit behind his own net, finished his shift and did not return.
With a short bench, especially in the absence of one of its top playmakers in Krejci, Boston didn't panic. Bruins coach Claude Julien was forced to mix and match, and his players were prepared for whatever was thrown at them. And, once again, Tuukka Rask made timely stops on the Flyers' quality scoring chances and finished with 34 saves.
The Bruins are one victory away from advancing to the Eastern Conference finals.
"We believe in here. We've kept that quiet belief all season," said Bruins forward Marc Savard. "We've obviously had some tough times, but we kept that quiet belief and right now it's showing. We're just going with it."
Where the Bruins take it remains to be seen, but they have put themselves in an interesting position in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Wednesday night was a perfect example of different players stepping up when a pair of teammates went down.
"We're not looking for heroes," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. "We're looking to get the job done and get the wins."
Even though the Bruins took Game 3, it wasn't their best effort of the series. Boston didn't control play as much as it wanted. Fortunately, the Bruins were able to cover up for their mistakes, especially in the defensive zone. The Flyers played with desperation, but still Boston found a way to win.
"It wasn't our best game," said Chara. "Some nights it's not going to be pretty, but all we care about are the results."
The Bruins accomplished a similar feat in the first round against the Buffalo Sabres when they were able to win a game on the road. Beating the Flyers at Wachovia Center was also a big accomplishment.
"It is big," said Bruins veteran and former Flyer Mark Recchi. "Obviously, you come into this building, but Tuukka played a great game. We were able to capitalize on our opportunities and in the third period we did a terrific job. It's big, but nothing is done until it's done. We've got a long way to go."
Julien called his team's ability to play without its full roster a matter of pride.
"The whole team has to step up and our whole team did tonight," he said.
Losing Krejci could be devastating for the Bruins moving forward, especially since the team lost Marco Sturm for the remainder of the season when he tore his ACL and MCL in Game 1 of this series.
Savard, who just returned after missing six weeks with a concussion, was having his ice time closely monitored by Julien. In Game 3, Savard had no choice but to log more minutes and he showed no ill effects.
"I knew when David went down I would be getting some extra minutes," Savard said. "It was hot out there and we kept [our shifts] short. Everybody battled and that's why we are where we are."
Once the final 20 minutes got under way, Julien's ability to match Philadelphia's lines went right out the door because of the shortened bench. The Bruins' coach was more concerned with getting fresh legs on the ice. The players kept their shifts short and Boston was able to get the puck deep in the Flyers' zone in order to keep the lines rolling.
"It was certainly a big test for us," said Julien. "You understand, obviously, the intensity of those playoff games, and for us to keep as many guys as fresh as we could was a huge task. Our guys did a great job in the third period, probably the most important period of this series so far. I was able to utilize the whole bench. It was everybody's responsibility to do the job."
Another factor was the Bruins' penalty-killing unit. With Krejci and Sturm already out and another penalty killer, Steve Begin, in the box for a delay-of-game penalty late in the third period, Savard found himself back on the PK. Boston had a 3-1 lead at the time and it was important to kill it off.
The Bruins did.
Boston's overall play in the third period proved crucial. Once the Bruins were able to get a two-goal lead on Recchi's power-play strike at 2:30 of the third, they really emphasized shutting down the neutral zone. They won the physical battles, and playing with the lead, they completely clogged up the neutral zone, frustrating the Flyers.
Philadelphia tried to entice Boston time and again, trying to draw penalties, but the Bruins did not deviate from their game plan.
"I thought it was a real good road game on our part," said Julien. "They are a desperate team and they needed this win, and for us to go down to a short bench and to be able to sustain that, I thought our guys responded well. It was a real gutsy effort on our part."
After a trying and arduous regular season, the Bruins can sense things are finally starting to go their way. If they can close out this series, they will advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since the 1991-92 season. Before that is possible, however, there's still one more victory to get in this series.
"The last game is always the toughest to win," said Julien. "We know that. This is one of those tasks that our guys are ready to take on."
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.