Friday, May 14, 2010
Flyers Make History to Rally Past Bruins
By: Tim Brennan
Every year the NHL unveils a slogan for the playoffs, this year that statement was "History Will Be Made". The Flyers took this to heart and completed the comeback Friday night to place themselves among few in NHL history.
The start of the game wasn't ideal for Philadelphia as they surrendered 3 goals on 14 shots and were absolutely smothered by a different Bruins team determined to bury the Flyers. Yet again Milan Lucic made an impact by potting two goals just 5 minutes apart. Michael Ryder got the Bruins off to a good start with a powerplay tally a little over 5 minutes into the game. The Flyers took two foolish penalties that hurt their chances early on, with Ryder and Lucic capitalizing.
In the aftermath of Lucic's second goal to push the Bruins to a 3-0 lead, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette called a timeout to wake his team up and get them into the correct mindset to battle back. Whatever he did worked out well as rookie James van Riemsdyk scored on one of the weirdest plays in NHL playoff history. Flyers captain Mike Richards threw his body into Dennis Wideman and the puck squirted to Claude Giroux who forwarded a pass to van Riemsdyk. As JVR rumbled in, he took a wrist shot that hit Mark Stuart's stick, breaking it, and bouncing in off the bottom region of Tuukka Rask's right leg pad. The rookie's goal was the first in 17 games and proved to be the turning point in the deciding game.
The Flyers best line in Game 5 stepped up in the second period to bring the score to a tie. After the Flyers kept the puck in, Danny Briere chipped the puck over to Ville Leino who spun around Matt Hunwick and got a shot on net. Rask deflected the puck away but it came right to Scott Hartnell, who chipped it over the sprawled Bruins netminder. At this point, it looked to be a picturesque comeback for the Flyers and their amazing battle to crawl back into this series. Danny Briere tied the game at 3 when he pulled a wraparound and surprised Rask by beating him to the post. The puck actually ramped up Matt Hunwick's stick and into the net.
The Flyers destiny looked to be victory when several players whacked at a loose puck in front of Rask with 5:14 left in the second period, but referee Kelly Sutherland signaled no goal. The puck looked to creep over the line on one of the many replays and could have given the Flyers a 4-3 lead to enter the third but the folks at Toronto waved off the goal, stating that the puck had not crossed the line.
As the teams battled for their lives and an opportunity at playing against Montreal in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bruins made the first mistake in taking a too many men penalty. Now the Bruins were #1 in penalty kill efficiency during the course of these playoffs with a rating around 91%. But they couldn't fight fate when the one person who's return changed the series, Simon Gagne, scored the game winner on the man advantage. It really couldn't have been anyone else as Gagne continued his success since coming back from a broken bone in his foot. The pure bred goal scorer added his 4th of the postseason with only 7 minutes to spare. The Bruins continued to press but were ultimately defeated when Claude Giroux burned almost a minute by keeping the puck along the boards and warding off Bruins defenders.
And just like that the rally to overcome a 3-0 deficit was complete. It's interesting how the final game unfolded similar to how the series played out: Bruins gain 3-0 lead before the Flyers storm back and put up 4 to get past them.
After a shaky start, Michael Leighton settled back into his comfort zone, stopping 22 shots and a possible game breaker when Marc Savard fired a shot almost point blank which was turned aside leading to Philly making history. Never did the Flyers need players to step up as James van Riemsdyk and Scott Hartnell did in such an important game. Both scored goals and provided plenty of energy and finesse to push this team over the top, combining for 2 goals, 1 assist, +3 rating and 5 shots on goal. All of the members on this team contributed in their own ways during this game and was a complete team effort through and through.
The Flyers became the 3rd NHL team and 4th professional sports team to rally back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. They now join the company of the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders in NHL history books as the only teams to accomplish such a feat. The Flyers could be considered a Cinderella team after being counted out late in the season as a team that wouldn't make the playoffs but has powered past the Devils and Bruins en route to a matchup with the Montreal Canadiens, the team that really is a Cinderella team or Smurf team whichever you prefer, in the Eastern Conference Finals.