Today would be the start of the 2019-2020 NHL postseason. Game one of any playoff series is an important matchup. The winning team can dictate the mood of the series. We at PSN are choosing to take a trip down memory lane, this time to a specific Philadelphia Flyers team that speaks to my childhood. This game one was the only high point of this series for the Flyers against the Ottawa Senators in the 2002 NHL playoffs.
2002 – Flyers vs Senators
In 2001-2002, the Philadelphia Flyers won 42 games. Under coach Bill Barber and alongside captains Eric Dejardins and Keith Primeau, the Flyers finished first in the Atlantic Division. The two youngest players on the roster were Simon Gagne (21) and Justin Williams (20). Heading into the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, Philadelphia had home-ice advantage. Their first challenge was the Ottawa Senators.
Throughout the season, the Ottawa Senators were a nightmare for the Philadelphia Flyers. Usually, the Senators beat the Flyers by two or more goals in 2001-2002. Only once during the regular season was Philadelphia victorious against Ottawa. These two teams even tied once. Three years later, the NHL removed ties from a decision that can determine a hockey game.
In this first game of the 2002 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Ottawa Senators were evenly matched. It was important for the Flyers to match the intensity of a team that had gotten the best of them all season. Philadelphia had to make the best of their home-ice advantage. In this period, Donald Brashear served a two-minute minor for roughing. The Flyers penalty kill proved to be effective as the period finished with no score.
Playing the Ottawa Senators close was the name of the game. The Philadelphia Flyers weren’t playing to survive. They were playing to surprise the Senators and get out to a hot start at the former First Union Center. Dan McGillis served a penalty for holding the stick and Martin Havlat responded to Donald Brashear’s earlier penalty by serving a roughing call. Both teams’ penalty kill made sure the second period ended the same as the first.
An unpopular goaltender now, Roman Cechmanek played great on this particular evening. In the third period, the Ottawa Senators had another opportunity on the powerplay after Jeremy Roenick served a minor penalty for holding. The Senators’ Daniel Alfredsson fired seven shots on Cechmanek, leading his offense. I’m willing to bet that Cechmanek blocked every one of those shots via headbutt. Regulation hockey ended in a scoreless stalemate.
The tension inside of the First Union Center was at a season-high. The first game of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals goes into overtime tied at zero! It wasn’t the ideal situation for either team, but the Philadelphia Flyers still had their chance. Just under eight minutes into overtime, Ruslan Fedotenko buried the game-winning goal off an assist from Marty Murray and the oldest Flyer on the roster, Adam Oates. After this game one, Philadelphia had the advantage as they kept the series at home for game two.
What Happened Next?
If you are a Philadelphia Flyers fan reading this article, the fun stops after game one of this series. The Ottawa Senators would tear the Flyers apart over the rest of the 2002 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals. In five games, the Senators defeated Philadelphia. The next time the Flyers would score another goal was in game five, another game that went to overtime. This time, the game-winner belonged to Ottawa at the First Union Center on the powerplay off the stick of Martin Havlat.