Prior Game Sevens: 2003 ECQF v. Toronto Maple Leafs

Sundin, Roenick, Esche
Toronto Maple Leafs’ captain Mats Sundin (left) skates by as members of the Philadelphia Flyers including Jeremy Roenick (centre) and goaltender Robert Esche (right) celebrate their overtime win in game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinal at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Tuesday, May 4, 2004. The Flyers won 3-2 to take the series 4-2. (CP PHOTO/Frank Gunn)

We’ve reached game seven. All the way from game one to now, PhillySportsNetwork has recapped some major games in major playoff series’. This time, we take a look at the decisive game seven in the opening round of 2003. The Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs faced off in a final go-round during an intense playoff matchup.

The Matchup

The Flyers and Leafs had reached the end-point to a back and forth series. Three of the six previous games had gone to at least double overtime, with game four needing triple overtime to decide a winner. The Maple Leafs had accumulated 15 goals in the first six games, while the Flyers totaled 18. With game seven looming, it was anybody’s guess as to who would be moving on to the semi-final round.

1st Period

The first 15 minutes of the period were uneventful. Neither team found the back of the net, and neither had really established much of an advantage. That was, until a little after 16 minutes in.

Leafs goalie Ed Belfour would play the puck around the boards to an awaiting Keith Primeau. Primeau would intercept the carom and play it back around to Justin Williams, sitting beyond the red line. Williams would immediately find Simon Gagne in front of the net, tallying the first goal of the game.

Not three minutes later the Flyers would strike again, just before the end of the first frame. Claude Lapointe would steal the puck at the Flyers blue line. He would dance around not one, but two Leafs players (Nik Antropov & Owen Nolan.) Lapointe would skate the puck into the Toronto zone and past the right dot. He centered to Justin Williams, who re-directed the centering pass behind Belfour, giving the Flyers a 2-0 lead with under a minute remaining in the period.

2nd Period

Almost mid-way through the middle frame, the Flyers found themselves on the powerplay. Dmitry Yushkevich keeps the puck in the zone, then gets it to Justin Williams along the boards. Primeau ends up with the puck and skates it down to the red line. Skating parallel to it, he feeds Simon Gagne in front, who hits it home as time expires on the man advantage, giving the Flyers a 3-0 lead.

The Maple Leafs wouldn’t go quietly, however. Alexander Mogilny would poke-check the puck along the boards to Jyrki Lumme. Lumme would fake a shot, then take one on net. It would deflect off Gary Roberts and into the net, but not without a visually peeved Roman Cechmanek. It appeared he was interfered with, and that was the argument. However, the Maple Leaf in front was pushed into Cechmanek, so the goal remained on the board.

Philadelphia would have an answer about three minutes later in the period. Lumme would find himself playing the puck around the boards. The pass would be intercepted by Jim Vandermeer. Vandermeer would take a shot on net, but Mark Recchi would redirect. Belfour would make the save, but the rebound would bounce out to Claude Lapointe. Lapointe would ping one off the post, but Recchi would find the rebound and hammer it home, giving the Flyers a 4-1 lead with just under four minutes remaining in the middle frame.

The Flyers would continue to keep their foot down on the gas, adding one more before the end of the period. After a Glen Weasley slash and Ed Belfour check resulting in two minor penalties, the Flyers found themselves on a 5-on-3 powerplay to close out the period. Kim Johnsson and Eric Weinrich would pass back and forth at the blue line, with Johnsson finally passing to Recchi at the red line. Recchi’s centering attempt was blocked by Bryan McCabe, but the puck would bounce back to Recchi. At a bad angle, Recchi attempted a shot on net, and it would find twine. The Flyers would take a 5-1 lead into the final frame.

3rd Period

The lone highlight of the third period would be the last insurance goal for the Flyers. John LeClair and Claude Lapointe would find themselves on a 2-on-1 rush about midway through the period. The Leafs defender would pull the patented “Andrew MacDonald starfish” move, as LeClair would skate around and feed Lapointe in front of the net. Lapointe’s first shot would be stopped, but he wouldn’t be denied, hammering home his second attempt and giving the Flyers a huge five goal lead. The score would remain the same until the final buzzer, where the Flyers took game seven, and the series.

What Happened Next?

After ousting the Leafs in seven games, the Flyers took on another Canadian foe, the Ottawa Senators. The best team in the league, Ottawa presented a difficult challenge for Philadelphia. The Senators would take game one in Ottawa, but the Flyers evened things up in game two. Going back to Philadelphia, both teams would come away winning one game apiece, heading into a pivotal game five in Ottawa.

The Senators would take game five of the series and never look back. Heading back to Philadelphia, the Senators finished off the Flyers and took the series four game to two.

Ottawa would go on to lose to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals, and New Jersey would go on to win the Stanley Cup Finals against the Anaheim Ducks.

Mandatory Credit – Frank Gunn, Canadian Press

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