The NHL promised that "history will be made" this post season, and on Friday night in Boston's TD Garden the Philadelphia Flyers obliged, becoming just the 3rd team in NHL history to rally to win a series after being down 3-0. The Flyers fought furiously to win games 4,5 and 6 to earn a one game do or die game 7 in Boston.
The Flyers found themselves in a familiar position in the 1st period, down 3-0. The Bruins, fueled by desperation and ruckus crowd dominated the Flyers in the first 15 minutes of the game. "I'm glad you guys wanted to talk about the last 45 minutes of the game and not the first 15." said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette.
The Flyers looked flat and giddy at the start of the game, which resulted in a few bad penalties. The first, a high-sticking penalty charged to Scott Hartnell led to Michael Ryder netting a power play goal and the first of the game. Less than 4 minutes later Danny Briere found himself in the box for the same offence and the Flyers, now looking at a 2 goal deficit as Milan Lucic received a beautiful pass from behind the net off the the stick of Dennis Wideman.
Lucic was not finished, sloppy play in the offensive end led to a turnover and an odd man rush for the Bruins. Lucic carried the puck up ice, and finished himself, scoring his second and the teams 3rd. The Bruins had taken a 3-0 lead with 5:50 still to play in the first period.
To calm the troops Laviolette called a time out. "Lets get 1" Laviolette said. Rookie James van Riemsdyk answered coach's order as he got the Flyers on the board with hustle, a nice move and a weird bounce. "We hopped on a 20 year old's shoulders for the first half of the game" said Flyers captian Mike Richards.
With the damaged being managed at only a 2 goal deficit after 1, the second period was owned by the Flyers. Scott Hartnell scored early in the second period, on a goal that epitomes the Flyers play over the last 4 games of the series. Hartnell carried the puck into the corner, got knocked down, passed the puck back to the point to Ryan Parent on one knee. Parent then wrapped the puck around the boards to Danny Briere, who was behind the net. Briere then threw a quick pass in front of the net, where Ville Leino in traffic, got off a spinning back hand shot that took an opportunistic bounce onto Hartnell's stick who burried a backhand top-shelf goal. "The Stanley Cup is a sacrifice you have to be willing to do that" said Laviolette.
The game was tied by the Flyers' postseason leader in points, Danny Briere. Hartnell found a streaking Briere who took the puck around the net and ricocheted the puck off Boston defender to square the score at 3-3. "My head was thinking go to the net and my hands went around" said Briere. "He is sneaky around the net" Hartnell said. Perhaps a better word would be stealthy or deadly as Briere has 15 points in 12 postseason games in 2010.
At the end of second period every thing was all even. Score 3-3. series 3-3. It was only fitting that this game 7 would come down to one period with the score tied. The third period had a feverish pace, with both teams generating scoring chances. With 7:08 remaining in the third, the longest tenured Flyer on a bad foot, Simon Gagne scored a power play goal to put the Flyers up 4-3. That would prove to be the game winner. "Simon is an elite player in the National Hockey League, he is a pure goal scorer" said Laviolette. "We didn't do it the easy way, we took the hard way, but we're part of hockey history now" Gagne said.
The Flyers have launched themselves into the conference finals by defying all odds with hustle, hard work and belief. "Belief in our system, belief in the way we play and belief in ourselves" said Hartnell.
Game 7 was filled with energy on every shift, and contributions from every player even if it doesn't show in the box score. "It was a complete team effort, the leaders lead the way and everyone else followed" said van Riemsdyk.
The Flyers fought through a seemingly insurmountable amount of adversity, not only dropping the first 3 games of a series, but losing their top goal scorer in Jeff Carter for the series, starting goalie Brian Boucher, and key contributor Ian Laperriere. "There are the right people in that locker room to come back from 3-0 and win a game like [Friday]" said Laviolette.
The Flyers will come home on Sunday to face the Montreal Canadiens, a team in which their odds are probably equally unlikely to be in the conference finals after eliminating the Presidents trophy winning Washington Capitals and defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. No team has ever defeated the Presidents trophy winner and the defending champions since the current format was adopted in 1994 until the Canadiens pulled off the feat Wednesday night.
The the 2 teams of destiny, the 7th and 8th seeds, will square off for the Eastern Conference finals. The series will certainly be a test of wills, teamwork and of course sacrifice. "If you make it until the end, and you reach to grab that thing you know you sacrificed. You play injured, you play hurt, you do anything to move on" Laviolette said.
The Flyers have made plenty of sacrifices thus far and have given us a team that we can be proud of. "I'm proud of the way they played, I'm proud of the way they represented the organization" said Laviolette.
(all quotes courtesy nhl.com)