Thomas and defense stole this one

PHILADELPHIA -- The puck went in. The sticks went up in celebration. The Boston Bruins players on the bench hopped over the boards, but needed to return when play continued because it was unclear whether David Krejci's one-timer actually went in.

It did.

After the play was whistled dead, it was obvious the shot did go in, and the Bruins had a 3-2 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series Monday night at Wells Fargo Center. Boston now holds a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game 3 on Wednesday night at TD Garden.

The Bruins saw contributions from everyone involved in Game 2, but the job goalie Tim Thomas did was simply spectacular. The 37-year-old Vezina Trophy finalist, who made 52 saves and is clearly locked in, flashed the pads time and again and stifled the relentless Philly attack. Every time it appeared the Flyers were about to capitalize, Thomas came up with a big save.

"This game and Game 5 against Montreal were his best as a Bruin in my eyes," Bruins team president Cam Neely said.

Coach Claude Julien concurred. "By far he was the star of the game tonight," Julien said. "He made some outstanding saves, especially when they started coming at us and had some unbelievable scoring chances. He stood tall and made some great saves. No doubt, if it's not for Timmy, we're not standing here tonight with a win. But that's what goaltenders do for you in the playoffs. It certainly builds some confidence in your team when you know the goaltender is there to bail you out, and Tim has given us that."

It was a terrific hockey game. This is what the Stanley Cup playoffs are all about. It had everything fans could want, and when it was over, it was the Bruins who came out on top after erasing an early two-goal deficit.

"At the end of the night in the playoffs, it's about winning and finding ways to win, and we did that," Julien said. "I'm proud of our guys."

The Bruins received goals from Chris Kelly and Brad Marchand before Krejci netted the game winner at 14:00 of overtime.

"I think it was [Milan] Lucic who put his hands in the air, so I immediately [raised my hands] and I saw [Flyers goalie Brian] Boucher's shoulders slump as if it went in," said Thomas. "Then play went on, and I was like, 'Oh no,' because I was already starting to get that overtime win rush. I was actually thinking to myself afterwards, 'I hope they don't get another shot right away,' because I needed to settle back down."

No need, because the goal counted and the Bruins had the win.

Given the news of Osama bin Laden's death Sunday, it was an emotional pregame ceremony at Wells Fargo Center. Lauren Hart's rendition of "God Bless America," combined with a recording of the late Kate Smith, was incredible with seemingly every fan in the building chanting, "USA, USA, USA," while the Marine color guard performed.

The place was rocking, and the Flyers fed off that energy, scoring 29 seconds into the game for a 1-0 lead. The Flyers gained a 2-0 lead at 9:31 of the first period, capitalizing on the power play.

But after that second tally, Thomas made 46 saves to finish with 52.

As much as Thomas stood on his head, he certainly had a lot of help from his defensive core. After the Bruins' Adam McQuaid suffered an undisclosed injury in the waning minutes of the first period and needed to be taken to a local hospital for evaluation, Boston played the remainder of the game with five defensemen.

The B's blueliners were clearing out the traffic in front of Thomas; they were getting sticks in lanes, blocking shots with vigor and clearing out the rebounds. Dennis Seidenberg played a total of 36:44, Zdeno Chara registered 31:35, Andrew Ference collected 27:59, Johnny Boychuk played 28:50 and Tomas Kaberle finished with 19:34.

"We were down to five defensemen when Adam got hurt," Thomas said. "Especially going into overtime, that's a tough job for the defensemen. They have to keep it simple and not tire themselves out."

Now that the series shifts to Boston with the Bruins holding a 2-0 lead, they're not about to take anything for granted for a few reasons, including the fact that they were the team down two games to start the series against the Canadiens.

And, of course, all the talk around the water cooler come Tuesday morning will be what happens if the Bruins are able to win Game 3 at home Wednesday, which would be a repeat of last spring. We all know how that turned out.

Julien didn't want to address that notion after the game, saying both teams are different than a season ago and that they have learned from it.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette guaranteed a victory in Game 3, stating that all the pressure is now on the Bruins.

"We did it last series [against Buffalo]. We did it last year against Boston," Laviolette said. "When you lose your first two games in your home building, I would say that there is a real expectation for the Bruins to win the series now. So it relieves us of the pressure.

"I really like our guys," he added. "I think that we're gonna go to Boston, we're going play a strong hockey game and we're going to win a game. This team never quits."

That determination does not go unnoticed by the Bruins.

"Teams that make it this far have a lot of character," Julien said. "We know they're not going to give up. We know what has happened with this team and they have a lot of character and they're capable of bouncing back. We're going to have to be ready for them."

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.