By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
Perhaps the fourth time will be the charm.
This is not the Flyers first rodeo in an outdoor setting. They have been on this stage three times before, but have yet to get a win.
In 2010, they led Boston, 1-0, at Fenway Park before Mark Recchi tied the game with a power-play goal with 2:18 left in the third period. Marco Sturm won the game 1:57 into overtime. That year, the Flyers got the last laugh in the playoffs, rallying from a 3-0 deficit to Boston in the playoffs on their way to a Stanley Cup Final appearance.
In 2012, the Flyers played host for the first time, facing the New York Rangers at Citizens Bank Park. There was no scoring for the first half of the game, but the Flyers did take the lead. Brayden Schenn scored his first NHL goal at 12:26 to put the Flyers on the board. Less than two minutes later, at 14:21, Claude Giroux scored to make it 2-0.
Michael Rupp scored just 30 seconds later, though, to make it 2-1. In the third, Rupp scored again at 2:41 to tie the game and Brad Richards snapped the 2-2 tie at 5:21 to make it 3-2 Rangers.
Danny Briere got a penalty shot with 20 seconds remaining after Ryan McDonagh covered the puck in the crease, but Briere was unable to do much with the attempt on a snow-covered ice surface and Henrik Lundqvist made the save. The Flyers never managed the tying goal in the moments that followed.
Two years ago in 2017, the Flyers faced the Penguins in their third outdoor game. The Penguins were the defending Stanley Cup champions and on their way to defending the title later that spring. The Flyers, meanwhile, had come crashing down from a 10-game winning streak and their playoff lives were hanging in the balance with each game.
Sidney Crosby scored the only goal of the first period at 11:18. Nick Bonino scored on the power play to make it 2-0 at 6:44. The Flyers did get on the board in the second with Jake Voracek scoring at 11:14 to cut the lead to one.
Matt Cullen struck for an early goal just 1:50 into the third, but the Flyers did not go quietly with Shayne Gostisbehere scoring at 6:48. The Flyers bid at a comeback was thwarted with 5:54 to play when Chad Ruhwedel scored to essentially put the game away in the 4-2 Penguins win.
That brings us to Saturday, the fourth time the Flyers will attempt to come out on the positive end of an outdoor game. It is also their second time hosting an outdoor game.
The outdoor games have become a little bit overdone in recent years — simply because there have been so many — but they are always an entertaining spectacle, especially when you have a team in the mix. The Flyers have been in position to win a couple of these outdoor games, only to fall short.
Against the Penguins, the task will not be easy. When the Flyers first played in outdoor games in 2010 and 2012, there was really no question where the Flyers stood in terms of the Eastern Conference. They were a playoff team in those situations and the game in early January had little impact on the standings. In this case, the Flyers playoff lives are riding on this game, as well as every game they will play until the margin becomes insurmountable.
The Flyers and Penguins have plenty of familiarity with each other lately, and it hasn’t gone in favor of the Flyers. Last season, Pittsburgh swept the regular-season series. The two teams met in the playoffs and while the Flyers made it interesting at times, the Penguins ultimately prevailed in six games. This season, the two teams have met twice. The Flyers came away victorious in Pittsburgh on Dec. 1, 4-2, but suffered a 4-1 loss to the Penguins on home ice less than two weeks ago.
The Penguins have a lot riding on this game too. They do hold a playoff spot, but the margin for error is also slim with three teams within three points of the Penguins. A string of losses could knock the Penguins right out of a playoff spot.
For the Flyers, this would be a great spot to announce their presence as a team that should content down the road. It was going to be hard to mount such a comeback this season, and give them credit for giving this game some standings meaning when two months ago, it appeared to be just another game.
But this is where Carter Hart can show that he is going to carry the Flyers no matter the setting, especially after two forgettable starts. This is where young budding stars like Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov and Nolan Patrick can make a statement. This is where Scott Gordon can show that his style and this roster can beat the Penguins. And to do it in front of a crowd of 70,000 people and millions more watching on a national TV audience would gain a lot of attention.
Unlike that game two years ago in Pittsburgh, there are a lot of things different with the Flyers, most notably the kid in goal and the man behind the bench. Maybe that will be the charm the Flyers need to finally win an outdoor battle.