Why is it that we remember comeback victories better than blowout wins? Is it the anxiety of the struggle before snatching victory from the jaws of defeat? Is it because the story is always better to tell after a team wins facing aggressive odds? Yes, it is because of those reasons. For those reasons, the 2010 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals is the best NHL comeback of all time.
In the regular season, the Philadelphia Flyers went 2-1-1 against the Boston Bruins. After winning in five games against the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, the Flyers found themselves down, 0-3, to the Bruins. The rest of the series were elimination games for Philadelphia. When the puck dropped for this game, only two teams in NHL history have overcome those odds. It was the only option for the Flyers.
2010 – Flyers vs Bruins
Earlier in the season, Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Stevens had been released from his duties for Peter Laviolette. Philadelphia legend Mike Richards was the captain for these Flyers and led the team in scoring. This team was built for a long playoff run. Daniel Briere proved to be a clutch player in NHL postseason hockey. Oh, and Philadelphia had just signed a future NHL Hall of Famer named Chris Pronger.
The first game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins went to overtime. The final score was 4-3 in favor of the Flyers. From the first game to this playoff series, the Bruins were an even match and a quality team. This was during a season where Brian Boucher wasn’t playing well and the feature goaltenders were Michael Leighton and Ray Emery. Boucher had a second chance in the last game of the season, securing a playoff spot for Philadelphia in a shootout win against the New York Rangers.
James van Riemsdyk had the first real scoring chance in this game. Tuukka Rask was shaken to the ice by van Riemsdyk, but Johnny Boychuk made the save. The Boston Bruins scored the first goal of the game when Mark Recchi lifted the puck above Brian Boucher who gave up a rebound. In the final minute of the first period, Daniel Briere scored a goal during four-on-four hockey. During the first intermission, Briere said he “shot for a rebound.”
A rare Philadelphia Flyers lead against the Boston Bruins in this series took place in the second period when Chris Pronger scored. To that point, the Flyers only led for two minutes in the previous three games of this Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Claude Giroux extended the lead, 3-1 when he scored on a kick pass from Scott Hartnell. Michael Ryder had the flukiest goal of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs to bring the Bruins back within one goal. The puck deflected off the carom and through Brian Boucher’s pads into the net.
Facing elimination, the Philadelphia Flyers just had to maintain their one-goal lead. Milan Lucic then deflected a shot by Brian Boucher to tie the game, 3-3. With anxiety back at an all-time high, Ville Leino matched Lucic’s deflection goal with one of his own. The Flyers were back in the lead and closer to the final horn. One player who brought Philadelphia so much joy put the Flyers right back in jeopardy as Mark Recchi scored again to tie the game with fifteen seconds left.
We, Philadelphia fans, love overtime hockey. On this night, the fans in attendance at the then Wachovia Center were biting their nails. Darroll Powe had two opportunities to clear the puck in the final minute of the third period, but couldn’t capitalize on the empty net. The Boston Bruins had an overtime powerplay opportunity, but the Flyers penalty kill held together. The hero tonight was Simon Gagne, stuffing the game-winner past Tuukka Rask with about five minutes remaining in overtime for a 5-4 win.
What Happened Next?
This was the first win in the best comeback story in Philadelphia Flyers’ history. In an overtime period, the Flyers were about to be swept by the Boston Bruins. Simon Gagne’s goal was the catalyst to the best comeback in sports in my life. “The Miracle at the Meadowlands Part Two” is beautiful, but that’s one game. Philadelphia had to complete a sweep facing elimination each night to win a best-of-seven series and did just that.
Mandatory Credit – © Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports