The Flyers had their playoff hopes on life support and were hoping the fourth time was the charm in an outdoor game. Two years after another loss in the 2017 Stadium Series at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, the Penguins paid a visit to Lincoln Financial Field.
A cold and rainy February night set the stage for the Flyers most recent outdoor appearance and for most of the night, it was looking as if the Flyers were going to be on the wrong end of yet another outdoor game that provided a great atmosphere.
But in the final moments of the game, the tables had turned. The Flyers get some opportunities and got some bounces and turned it into a dramatic comeback win that will forever hold a place in Flyers lore.
Here is a look back at our next Flyers Greatest Moment, the 2019 Stadium Series game.
For most of the afternoon leading up to the game, the question was how long Mother Nature would hold out for the game to get underway. There was speculation that the game may not even be played at all or that a new rules package would be put in place if for some reason the game had to be cut short. Luckily, the early portion of the game got off the ground without a hitch and it was game on.
An early turnover helped to give the Penguins the lead as Sidney Crosby capitalized from in close at 7:59.
The Flyers managed to respond before the end of the period, despite being outshot, 18-8, in the opening 20 minutes. Sean Couturier beat Matt Murray high off a rush to tie the game at one with his 25th goal of the season.
The first period didn’t end without the typical fireworks that come with the Flyers-Penguins rivalry. Wayne Simmonds, playing in what would be his final game as a Flyer, laid a heavy hit on Brian Dumoulin along the boards that forced the Penguins defenseman from the game. In a scrum that followed, Kris Letang also suffered an injury and did not return, leaving the Penguins with just four defensemen for the remainder of the game.
Pittsburgh again held the shots advantage in the second, 12-9, over the Flyers and managed the only goal of the period. Just one second past the halfway point of regulation, Justin Schultz scored his first goal of the season to give the Penguins the lead.
As the game progressed, the rain picked up and it started to make the routine plays that happen inside an arena much more difficult. It showed on the next goal in the game, which came at 6:29 of the third. Evgeni Malkin cut across the blue line and fired a shot that Brian Elliott stopped with his glove, but could not catch. That sent the rebound into the air and the puck bounced off his pad and behind him for a goal, giving the Penguins a 3-1 lead.
To that point, the Flyers had struggled to get many quality chance on Murray and the Penguins and the final 13:31 felt like a mere formality with the team down by two goals.
Late in the game, the Flyers started to get the Penguins off their game slightly. Robert Hagg was able to lure Malkin into a cross-checking penalty that put the teams at 4-on-4. Then Matt Cullen took a slashing penalty with 4:20 remaining. With the goalie pulled, the Flyers had a 5-on-3.
As the minors to Hagg and Malkin expired, Jake Voracek took a shot that left a rebound in the crease and James van Riemsdyk was able to clean it up to cut the lead to one with 3:04 to go. As the final minute approached and the Flyers got the goalie out again, it was again looking like time would run out on the Flyers hopes. With just 19.7 seconds remaining, they got a bounce. A sharp-angle shot off a face-off from Voracek beat Murray and tied the game at three.
That forced overtime and the Flyers were in position to escape with two points and send a crowd of 69,620 home happy. They had outshot the Penguins, 18-10, in the final period to help narrow the gap in shots to 40-35.
In the overtime, the Penguins looked like the more dangerous team, getting a pair of quality chances early. Just shy of two minutes into the overtime, the Flyers got their chance when Captain Clutch stepped up and delivered.
Claude Giroux, playing in his 800th career game, sped through the neutral zone after taking a pass from Nolan Patrick. He cut back through the slot and put a move on Schultz that crossed him up and forced him to lose his stick. Giroux got a shot off that was along the ice and handcuffed Murray as well, leaking through his pads and just inside the left post for the game-winning goal. It completed the Flyers late 3-1 rally in a 4-3 victory.
The Flyers had played in three outdoor games to that point with the same result, but also a similar atmosphere to each. There was an especially energetic crowd in place when the Flyers were hosts of an outdoor game at Citizens Bank Park in 2012 -- more on that later on, so stay tuned.
This time appeared to be the same, just another outdoor game that didn’t go the Flyers way. Instead, they found a way to rally, finally cracking through the armor of the Penguins four-man defensive unit that had performed so admirably to that point.
There was a lot of buzz leading up to the game about Simmonds and if this was to be his last game with the trade deadline looming. Such enough, two days later, he was dealt just inside the 4 p.m. deadline, marking the end of the Flyers career for a longtime member of the core of the team. It signaled that the run for this core was, in some ways, over and that the Flyers season was on much thinner ice than perceived in the standings.
Simply put, it wasn’t realistic to see the Flyers making the playoffs, and while the win at the Linc was great, it didn’t spark any new rally or save their season. Just over a month later, they were out of playoff contention and greater changes would follow in the offseason.
Highlights from the 2019 Stadium Series can be seen below:
We will continue with Flyers Greatest Moments on Wednesday when we look back to the 2012 Winter Classic and the Alumni Game festivities just days before.