After the Flyers had to win on the final day of the 2009-10 regular season just to make the playoffs, they pulled off an unlikely five-game series win over the No. 2 Devils. The No. 1 and No. 3 seeds were also bounced in the first round, leaving the No. 6 seeded Boston Bruins as the Flyers next opponent in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
This series was all about comebacks, some that actually never made it to the finish line like in Game 1 and others that will go down as some of the greatest moments in hockey history and definitely in Flyers history.
It is a series that proved why every game of the series matters and how many little moments can shift the momentum or make a team rise to the occasion. Here is a look back at the Flyers improbable comeback against the Boston Bruins in 2010 as we continue our Series in Review series.
As they were throughout the playoffs, the odds were stacked against the Flyers and in Game 1 the Bruins showed why they were series favorites. The Flyers fell behind early as Steve Begin scored just 2:39 into the game. Patrice Bergeron added another goal at 12:54 to put the Flyers in an early 2-0 hole.
The Flyers did get on the board at 7:38 of the second with Ryan Parent scoring to cut the lead to one, but the Bruins struck for a power-play goal at 11:43 from Miroslav Satan to make it 3-1. Before the period ended, Chris Pronger added a power-play goal and cut the lead to one with 4:12 remaining.
As the third progressed, the Bruins continued their push and added another goal from David Krejci at 7:25 that could have been the dagger for the Flyers. A power-play goal by Mike Richards with 7:23 remaining gave the Flyers life. With 3:22 remaining in the third, Danny Briere cut through the slot and split the Bruins defense, scoring on a rebound to tie the game and force overtime.
As the first overtime got down to the final minutes, the Flyers were about to be called for a penalty when Marc Savard scored from along the boards to give the Bruins the Game 1 victory.
After making a two-goal third-period comeback in Game 1 only to fall in overtime, the Flyers never trailed in Game 2 by more than a goal. Unfortunately, they never led in the game at all.
Just 5:12 into the game, Johnny Boychuk got the Bruins on the board. Richards was able to match the Boston goal at 17:06 to tie things up at one.
At 9:31 of the second, Satan scored to give Boston the lead again, but Briere scored to tie the game with 25 seconds left in the period.
Throughout the third, the Flyers were playing with fire, taking two penalties and giving the Bruins a lot of chances. The Bruins finally cashed in with 2:57 remaining as Milan Lucic scored to give them a 3-2 lead. They would hold on in the final minutes to secure a 2-0 series lead.
With the series returning home, the Flyers needed a response and got one early from Arron Asham. He scored just 2:32 into the game to give the Flyers their first lead of the series.
That lead was short-lived though, as Blake Wheeler tied the game at 4:11 and Satan gave Boston the lead just 1:34 later.
The Flyers could not take advantage of four power plays, including two in the final period, as the Bruins piled on in the third, first getting a power-play goal from Mark Recchi and adding an empty-net goal from Bergeron in the final two minutes of the game.
The frustration was starting to show for the Flyers, who now trailed in the series, 3-0, and were watching their hopes fade away quickly.
The unlikely nature of erasing a 3-0 series deficit can cause people to at least lose some excitement in the series. As Game 4 progressed, it was a roller coaster of emotions from despair to hope to devastation to elation.
Late in the first period, the two teams traded goals, first with Recchi getting the Bruins on the board at 15:37. Briere tied the game with 54 seconds left in the period.
The Flyers took control of the game early in the second, getting goals from Pronger at 4:28 and Claude Giroux at 8:35 to open up a 3-1 lead. Just 2:21 after opening up the two-goal lead, Michael Ryder scored to cut the lead back to one.
An early power play in the third allowed the Bruins to tie the game with Lucic cashing in to even things up at three. With hope starting to fade with the way the rest of the series had gone, it seemed fully expected that the Bruins would get the next goal and put an end to the series.
It was the Flyers that scored next through, getting a 4-3 lead on a goal by Ville Leino with 5:40 remaining. In the final minute of the third, just seconds away from at least picking up one win in the series, Recchi scored again to tie the game with 32 seconds left. It was a crushing blow to the Flyers and made Boston’s overall series dominance seem like a run of destiny.
But the Flyers were able to survive the early part of overtime, including a Boston power play midway through the period. Simon Gagne played hero in his return to the lineup after missing the first three games of the series with injury, scoring on a tip in front at 14:40 to give the Flyers the 5-4 win and force a Game 5.
On the scoreboard, this was one of the few games in the series that didn’t involve a comeback, but the game did feature another significant moment to the series comeback.
At 6:41 of the first period, the Flyers got on the board with Leino scoring. With the Flyers still holding a 1-0 lead early in the second, a close chance for the Bruins resulted in a knee injury for Brian Boucher that forced Michael Leighton into the game. Shortly after, the Flyers had to kill off a penalty and did. At 11:16 of the second, Scott Hartnell scored to make it 2-0 and Gagne added a power-play goal with 2:07 remaining in the period to make it 3-0.
Gagne added his second goal of the game and third in the previous two games at 6:48 of the third to cap the scoring in the 4-0 split shutout win for the Flyers, sending the series back to Philadelphia for Game 6.
The series returned to Philly where the Flyers had a chance to flirt with history. A win would send the series back to Boston for Game 7 and present a winner-take-all matchup for a trip to the Eastern Conference Final.
Leave it to the Flyers captain to get the goal to open the scoring. Richards scored on a rebound chance at 6:58 of the first to get the Flyers on the board.
A majority of the game was very clean. There was only one Boston penalty in the first period and for more than half of the second period, no additional penalties were called. With under five minutes to play in the period, the Flyers briefly had a 5-on-3 that was nullified when Pronger took an interference penalty. At 4-on-3, the Flyers were able to extend the lead with Briere taking the shot after having a pass attempt blocked to make it 2-0 with 3:40 remaining in the period.
Early in the third, the Flyers had to kill off two penalties to retain the two-goal lead. With 7:21 remaining, Leino was awarded a penalty shot. A goal there would have all but sealed the Flyers victory, but Tuukka Rask made a great glove save to keep the margin at two.
That proved big in the closing stages of the game when Boston was finally able to get on the board with a goal by Lucic with exactly one minute to play. The Flyers managed to hold on the rest of the way for the 2-1 win to force a deciding Game 7 two nights later.
The date will go down in history: May 14, 2010. The Flyers had their date with destiny, to become just the third team in NHL history to erase a 3-0 series deficit to win the series.
If history was going to happen for the Flyers, it was going to be difficult. That was apparent early when the Bruins had their way with the Flyers throughout the first period.
A high-sticking penalty to Hartnell put the Bruins on the power play, and they needed just eight seconds to strike with Ryder scoring on a turnaround shot at 5:27. The Bruins were back on the power play minutes later when Briere went to the box for high-sticking and struck again with Lucic burying a feed in front to make it 2-0 at 9:02. Five minutes later, Darroll Powe turned the puck over and Kimmo Timonen was caught pinching and it resulted in a two-on-one the other way with Lucic leading the charge. He chose to shoot and beat Leighton through the five-hole to make it 3-0 with 5:50 remaining in the opening period.
It was at that moment that Peter Laviolette chose to take his timeout and his message was clear even on the telecast. With his index finger raised, he emphasized that the team needed one goal before the end of the period to stay in the heads of the Bruins, to still keep the thought that a comeback was there alive. The Flyers came away from that timeout and managed to get that goal with 2:48 remaining as James van Riemsdyk got a shot to leak through Rask and get the Flyers on the board.
The teams went to the locker room with the score at 3-1, but the Flyers had managed to shift the momentum. Just 2:49 into the second, some quick puck movement allowed Hartnell to jump on a rebound to cut the lead to one with plenty of time left. It took just under six minutes for the Flyers to tie the game with Briere scoring on a wraparound off the leg of a Bruin. Less than 20 minutes after falling behind 3-0, the Flyers had pulled even.
For a moment, the Flyers thought they had scored to take the lead in the second with multiple Flyers jamming at Rask in the crease, but replay was inconclusive and the score remained tied.
In the third, the back-and-forth nature of the game was as intense as ever. The Bruins hit two posts and the Flyers hit one with each shot becoming more magnified. At 11:10, the Bruins took the only penalty of the third period, a too many men on the ice penalty that put the Flyers on the power play.
Finally, the Flyers had their chance, and it was Gagne who took a rising shot over the shoulder of Rask and went bardown to give the Flyers the lead. For the first time in the series, the Flyers had the Bruins on the ropes.
The last 7:08 of the third period was loaded with tension as the Flyers tried to hold on. Leighton came up with big saves. Giroux took on three Bruins to erase some precious time off the clock. In the final seconds, Zdeno Chara fired just wide looking for a possible deflection. The Flyers were able to clear after that and the final seconds disappeared, ending one of the greatest comebacks in hockey history.
Where do you begin with this series? It is arguably the greatest series win the Flyers have had in the last 30 years. Through the 70s and 80s the Flyers won two Stanley Cups and made numerous other appearances in the Final, but there are few recent series that compare to this one.
Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Flyers in the first three games. They rallied back in Game 1 only to fall in overtime. A late goal in Game 2 sank them. After getting the first goal of Game 3, the Bruins took over and put the Flyers away in that game. After turning the tide for the next three games, the first period of Game 7 couldn’t have been any worse.
That Game 7 was a microcosm of the series. To fall behind 3-0 in the deciding game of the series after falling behind 3-0 in the series and rally back from both for 4-3 wins in both the game and the series is simply amazing.
Obviously, this series win paved the way for the Flyers to come in and dismantle the Canadiens in five games to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. It felt like a team of destiny until the Chicago Blackhawks stepped in and put an end to the magical run in Game 6 of the Final. But this is one of the great teams that Flyers fans point to from recent years that became easy to like and remains indelible in the minds of fans of all ages.
Our Series in Review series will continue tomorrow with a look back at the 2004 Eastern Conference Final between the Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning.