Hockey is a game of slim margins. It’s either the taste of victory or the bitter pill of defeat. In a playoff series, it isn’t the score that always tells the story. Consider what each team has to lose. The difference in game five of the 2010 NHL Eastern Conference Semi-Finals was four goals, but before the puck drop, the Philadelphia Flyers were skating on thin ice.
Avoiding elimination in game four, Simon Gagne was the overtime hero after his game-winning goal to force game five. 42-year-old Mark Recchi was the best forward on the Boston Bruins during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. He had the most playoff goals on the Bruins, which supported Tuukka Rask. The tale of these two goaltenders is of a rookie to swiped Tim Thomas’ starting place against a veteran goaltender who is making his last playoff run in the NHL.
Before the drop of the puck, the mantra of the Philadelphia Flyers is that “every game is a game seven.” A few minutes into the period, Aaron Asham floated an accurate backhand saucer pass to Claude Giroux who just poked his stick forward for the one-timer. Tuukka Rask made a huge save that kept the Flyers from taking the Boston crowd out of the game. The Bruins had the top penalty-kill in the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, so Philadelphia had to relentlessly shoot on Rask. Before the first period was over, Ville Leino was credited with a rebound goal following Chris Pronger’s slapshot.
Down by a goal, the Boston Bruins led in shots and faceoffs. Brian Boucher had a great period in the net, but his postseason came to a screeching halt in the second period. His defenseman, Ryan Parent, fell on him in such a way that it bent his left leg backward. Parent only played eight shifts in this game, which was ten less than his linemate Lukas Krajicek’s game total. Peter Laviolette shut down on Parent and played every other defenseman the rest of the game.
Enter Michael Leighton, a featured goaltender on the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2009-2010 regular season following Ray Emery. Emery missed the rest of the season due to avascular necrosis. Following Leighton’s entry into the game, Scott Hartnell snapped his 21-game scoring drought. Simon Gagne, the game four hero, extended the lead to three goals on the powerplay against the best penalty kill. Frustration began to settle in on the Boston Bruins as Claude Giroux and Ville Leino received questionable hits from behind.
Simon Gagne scored his second goal on a breakaway and the Philadelphia Flyers led 4-0. This is about the time that the Boston Bruins emotions ran high and dirty hits were made. In the first period, Vladimir Sobotka showed the kind of player he is when he didn’t knock out Danny Briere and held up on his hit. Briere was lined up exactly how Scott Stevens had Eric Lindros. To this day, good on you, Sobotka.
Chris Pronger was skating into the corner boards towards the puck and was blatantly tripped by Blake Wheeler. Wheeler wasn’t close enough to the puck to reach for it, but he did sweep Pronger’s legs with his stick. Boston’s fans were aggravated and threw debris onto the ice. Several minutes later, after Mike Richards hit Marc Savard, Milan Lucic joined Savard in throwing punches. The Philadelphia Flyers achieved more than momentum in game five; they were living rent-free in the minds of the Boston Bruins.
What Happened Next?
With complete momentum, the Philadelphia Flyers began to assume control of the mental battle. Game six comes back to Philadelphia and is the final opportunity the Boston Bruins have before they are in survival mode. Simon Gagne was the catalyst to the greatest Flyers (and hockey comeback) in history. Now, Gagne has become the driving force. Game five was the first combined playoff shutout in Philadelphia’s franchise history.
Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports