Sunday, April 05, 2015

Parade of Flyers' Easter results

Later this afternoon, the Philadelphia Flyers will participate in the final game of their season series with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It's a meeting of utmost importance to the latter team, who are struggling mightily down the stretch and clinging to their playoff position despite the absences of key personnel and some salary-cap issues which have hampered defensive depth.

Already out of the race, the Orange and Black can nonetheless nail down the season series and embarrass their cross-state rivals once more in front of a national audience on a major holiday. It wouldn't be the first time the Flyers came up big on Easter, and let's hope it's not the last.

Since the National Hockey League returned from its one-year hiatus in 2005, the league has scheduled Philadelphia to play eight times on the day older fans grow fat from the traditional ham and their kids get a raging sugar high from mounds of chocolate and brightly-colored marshmallow treats.

Since joining the league in 1967, the Flyers have participated in 22 Easter matchups in both the regular season and playoffs. The first time was in their second year of existence, a 4-1 home loss to the Blues on April 6, 1969, a loss which knocked them out of the postseason in a four-game sweep.

Three more losses followed in consecutive years before the first, and to that date, biggest, victory on the holiday occurred thanks to an unlikely source:

That's right. Dave Schultz -- the most infamous rabble-rouser of the 1970s -- on the heels of a 20-goal season which included a pair of hat tricks, added a playoff series OT winner which sent the Flyers onto the 1974 Stanley Cup semifinals against the New York Rangers.

In that game, which took place on April 14, the Flames took a 3-0 lead late in the second period, before strikes from Andre Dupont, Gary Dornhoefer and Tom Bladon sent the game beyond regulation. For "The Hammer," it was his second career playoff goal, and none bigger for the remainder of his NHL tenure.

The following recaps and video provide background on some of the good, bad and ugly Easter contests in Flyers history.

April 24, 2011: Flyers 5, Sabres 4 (OT) Game 6, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals -- The year of Peter Laviolette's fabled goaltending carousel in a first-round series with Buffalo nearly backfired on a warm Spring afternoon in Western New York. Facing elimination, the Flyers were down 2-0 less than nine minutes after the opening faceoff and 3-1 after one period thanks to two goals from Thomas Vanek.

James van Riemsdyk and Danny Briere scored to tie, then after Nathan Gerbe's miracle spinning shot beat backup Brian Boucher late in the second, Scott Hartnell scored his first of the series midway through the third to set up Ville Leino's heroics:

Two nights later, back on Broad Street, the Flyers polished off the upset-minded Sabres with a dominant 5-2 decision. Leino tallied in the third period of that series-clinching victory, his final goal of a memorable but short stay with the franchise.

April 2, 1972: Sabres 3, Flyers 2 at Memorial Auditorium -- Fred Shero's first season at the helm came down to the final game of the season in Buffalo. Needing only a point to leap past Pittsburgh and into the fourth and final playoff spot in the West Division, the visitors jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but couldn't hold it. Back came the Sabres with Gilbert Perreault and Rick Martin scoring to forge a 2-2 deadlock.

All was well, and with rules of the time dictating that a tie game after 60 minutes of play remained a tie, the playoff berth was all but assured. Except, former Flyer Gerry Meehan decided to make one last rush and stuck a shot by Doug Favell with only four seconds left in regulation:

In a moment of clarity for the mercurial owner, Ed Snider famously assured the club that no one would lose their jobs over one goal, and the rest is history. Buoyed by some key additions and the confidence of the front office, the club made the playoffs in '73 and embarked on a record 17 straight postseasons which included six Stanley Cup Finals berths and two wins until the run was broken in 1990.

April 16, 1995: Flyers 4, Penguins 3 (OT) at the Spectrum -- It appeared the Mario Lemieux-less Pens were going to put an end to the hosts' five-game win streak which helped them maintain first place in the Atlantic Division, while clinching a playoff berth with a victory.

They led 3-2 with 49 seconds to play when Troy Murray earned a major for boarding and game misconduct for ramming Rod Brind'Amour head-first into the boards. Mikael Renberg tipped in an Eric Desjardins shot to tie the game just 29 seconds later, and Ulf Samuelsson added more fuel to the fire by drawing a high-sticking call with one second left in regulation, giving Philly a 5-on-3 power play for a full two minutes to begin the extra session. Once there, Brind'Amour redirected a Desjardins offering after 90 seconds elapsed and a full house of 17,380 went bonkers with FOX transmitting the results to the rest of America.

April 11, 1971: Blackhawks 6, Flyers 2 Game 4 First Round -- For the second time in three years, the Orange and Black were bounced from the playoffs in a sweep which was completed on their home ice. Jim Pappin picked up a hat trick and Cliff Koroll added two more scores for Chicago, which ripped off 20 goals in the four games.

April 6, 1980: Rangers 8, Flyers 3 at the Spectrum -- The greatest regular-season in team history concluded with this inexplicably awful defeat to the Blueshirts. Despite recording a professional record 35 game unbeaten streak (25-0-10) and gaining the No. 1 seed in the playoffs with a 48-12-20 record, Pat Quinn's team finished the year a pedestrian 3-5-5 and threw in this clunker to end. Ron Duguay scored twice in a five-goal New York first period and Ron Greschner added two goals and two assists. Philly got its revenge in a five-game, second-round pounding.

April 7, 1985: Flyers 6, Devils 1 at the Meadowlands -- First-year head coach Mike Keenan and his unique motivational methods pushed the club to a franchise-record 53 wins along with 113 points. Had there been a Presidents' Trophy, Philadelphia would have won it by four over defending champions Edmonton and gained home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Both Brian Propp and rookie Todd Bergen scored twice and Pelle Lindbergh's shutout bid was foiled by Kirk Muller with 1:50 to play.

April 7, 1996: Bruins 4, Flyers 2 at the Spectrum -- The penultimate game in the old venue's regular-season history found the home team playing on a rainy day, without captain Eric Lindros, and cheated out of a potential game-tying goal thanks to a rule not often demonstrated in game action. Down 3-2, Shjon Podein's attempted dump-in from the neutral zone took a hard right and caromed past Boston's Bill Ranford with 1:54 left in regulation, but the score was nullified since the puck made contact with linesman Ron Asselstine. Kyle McLaren iced the game with an empty-netter.

April 8, 2007: Flyers 4, Sabres 3 -- The worst season by point total in franchise history (56) ended on a bittersweet note on an NBC afternoon broadcast. Despite missing out on the playoffs during a contested NHL season for the first time since 1994, Mike Knuble and Mike Richards scored roughly five minutes apart early in the third period to erase a one-goal deficit:

April 4, 2010: Flyers 4, Red Wings 3 -- One week removed from their epic shootout decision against the Rangers which vaulted them into the playoffs, Peter Laviolette's inconsistent club shocked the 19,596 in attendance by taking the lead just 17 seconds in on a goal by none other than Dan Carcillo. Kimmo Timonen added a goal at 7:16, but Detroit struck twice before the end of the period. Claude Giroux and Arron Asham provided counterpunch in the second period, with Asham's marker at 17:36 the eventual game winner. Boucher propped up his offense with a 31-save effort.

March 31, 2013: Flyers 5, Capitals 4 (OT) -- Of all the epic Philly-Washington games played over the years, few match the intensity of this Easter evening masterpiece, which saw the home squad waste a 2-1 first-period lead and trail 4-2 with just over seven minutes remaining thanks to red lights from Mike Green, Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin. Fans got to see an unexpected, nasty side to Jake Voracek, who was hit with 19 minutes in penalties after an early-third period fight with the Caps' Steven Oleksy during a line brawl.

Then, the drama concluded with a late tying score from a dependable defenseman and winning marker from a long-awaited returning player:

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