Philadelphia Flyers: Their 7 Greatest Comeback Playoff Wins

Joe BoylanCorrespondent IIApril 17, 2012

Philadelphia Flyers: Their 7 Greatest Comeback Playoff Wins

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    On April 11th and 13th, the Philadelphia Flyers treated their fans to two of the most intense, logic defying come from behind victories in the franchise's history.

    Both games will no doubt be remembered by all in the fanbase who witnessed them, and these two wins have turned the 2012 NHL playoff picture upside down.

    Here is a look at where both victories rank in the Flyers' history of remarkable playoff comebacks.

7. Game 1 2012 Eastern Conference Quarter Finals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The Flyers entered the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs as underdogs to the Pittsburgh Penguins who many people—including those in the know in Las Vegas—are predicting will be the Stanley Cup Champions.

    The Penguins possess the league's best offense and was a force to be reckoned with all season...and that was before their best player, Sidney Crosby, returned to the lineup late in the season after missing over a year of action due to a concussion and a broken neck.

    On paper the Penguins had all of the advantages. Four deep lines who could all score, two of the best players in the world in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and an elite goaltender with a Stanley Cup ring in Marc-Andre Fleury.

    Meanwhile, the Flyers had a team with six rookies who would be experiencing their first taste of NHL playoff action, a goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov who, though being named as the NHL Player of the Month for March, had a shaky first season in Philadelphia and who last post-season was swept (badly) by the Detroit Red Wings, and a defense missing two of their three best defenseman and had to rely on a hurting (and aging) Kimmo Timonen.

    Not many people gave the Flyers a chance.

    Things could not have started out worse for the Flyers. The Penguins jumped to a 3-0 lead by the end of the first period. They were out hitting the Flyers and out hustling them.

    In the second period the Flyers fought back thanks to a breakaway goal by Danny Briere. In the third period, down 3-1, Briere scored again. The team inched back to make it 3-2 and there now seemed a possibility that they could make a game of this.

    On the team's first power play late in the third period, Brayden Schenn, in the midst of his NHL breakout game, deflected a Scott Hartnell shot/pass into the net and the game was tied. The Penguins and their fans were stunned.

    Overtime didn't even have a chance to really get going before Jakub Vorachek put a Matt Carle rebound past Marc-Andre Fleury to give the Flyers the win and game one of the playoffs.

    A remarkable come-from-behind victory, on the road, against a team considered the league's best. 

6. Game 4 1988 Patrick Division Semi Finals vs. Washington Capitals

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    The 1986-87 Flyers was one of the greatest teams in the history of the franchise. It was full of lovable, iconic Flyers who defied all odds and pushed the Edmonton Oilers, arguably the greatest team in the history of all of sports, to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals mainly on the back of rookie goaltender Ron Hextall.

    They were a team fondly remembered and still talked about to this day by all Flyers fans who witnessed their play.

    The 1987-88 Flyers team was a different story altogether.

    Things didn't start out well for them from jump when said 1987 Vezina Trophy winning goalie Hextall missed the first eight games of the season due to a suspension for a nasty two handed slash to the Oilers Kent Nilsson in game four of the 1987 Finals.

    Their best scorer, Tim Kerr, was in the midst of a mind bogglingly awful shoulder injury and would be lost for virtually the entire season.

    In December, during the same game against the Boston Bruins where Hextall scored his first NHL goal, one of their veteran leaders, assistant captain Brad Marsh, was literally almost killed on the ice due to a hit by Ray Borque and Cam Neely that resulted in Marsh's un-helmeted head bouncing off of the ice.

    There was team discord all season long as the players began to tire of task master coach Mike Keenan's antics. They were even tiring of one another as many players openly questioned and even confronted defenseman Doug Crossman on his work ethic and dedication to the team.

    Things came to a head midway through the season when Keenan got in captain Dave Poulin's face in the locker room and Flyers' winger Lindsay Carson vocally encouraged Poulin to fist fight the coach.

    Carson, who openly hated Keenan, would be traded to the Hartford Whalers after asking GM Bob Clarke for a trade to anywhere else. He finished the year in Hartford and never played in the NHL again.

    The team finished fourth place in the tightly bunched Patrick Division and had to face first place rival Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs.

    The Flyers split the first two games on the road in D.C. and then won game three at home.

    Game four would become one for the ages and probably the most exciting game of an otherwise disastrous season.

    The Flyers opened the scoring with Ilkka Sinisalo scoring an unassisted goal, but then things came apart at the seams.

    Hextall struggled giving up two goals and the team went into the third period trailing by one.

    Forced to take chances, the Flyers were caught up ice as the Capitals scored twice more on them and Washington held a three goal lead with under nine minutes to play.

    Keenan pulled Hextall for backup goalie Mark LaForest. It looked like the series would be going to Washington tied at two apiece. But then, the Flyers came back.

    Mark Howe scored to make it 4-2 with five minutes left. Then Kjell Samuelsson, Rick Tocchet and Brian Propp all combined on Propp's goal to make it 4-3. Samuelsson then inexplicably tied the game with just 53 seconds remaining.

    The Flyers had scored three goals in just over eight minutes to tie the game.

    At just 1:18 into overtime, Dave Poulin blocked a clearing attempt and fed a pass down low to Rick Tocchet who was looking to shoot, at the last moment he saw Murray Craven cutting for the net.

    Tocchet hit Craven with a pass and the forward lifted the puck past Capital goalie Clint Malarchuk for an improbable 5-4.

    Tocchet and Craven embraced on the ice on their knees in an iconic image from Flyers' history. The Flyers were heading to Washington with a 3-1 series lead and were looking to upset the first place Capitals.

    Of course, this being the 1987-88 Flyers, this amazing overtime victory would be the team's last and they blew the 3-1 series lead eventually losing in overtime in game seven to the Capitals on a play where Dale Hunter blew by a seemingly uninterested Doug Crossman and beat Hextall through the five hole on a breakaway.

    The fact that the team blew a 3-1 series lead keeps this game from ranking higher on the list..

5. Game 2 2012 Eastern Conference Quarter Finals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Game one of this series was one for the ages. The Flyers fell behind 3-0 yet came back to win 4-3 in overtime...what to do for an encore?

    The Penguins scored 15 seconds into game two...15 seconds. Sidney Crosby took advantage of an ill-advised line change just about .01 seconds into the game by Flyers coach, Peter Laviolette.

    The Penguins who seemingly could do no wrong in the eyes of the officials kept racking up power play opportunities. They took a 3-1 lead into the second period. The Flyers looked dead, the Penguins looked to have shifted the momentum to their favor. There seemed no way the Penguins could blow another lead on their home ice, no way.

    When the final buzzer sounded, the Flyers had won the game 8-5.

    The Flyers scored two short handed goals, had two players record hat-tricks, saw Claude Giroux rack up six points. They overcame a 2-0 deficit, a 3-1 deficit, a 4-3 deficit, a 5-4 deficit. They kept coming and coming; they were relentless.

    It was one of the most entertaining games in recent memory.

    Their goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, gave up five goals yet still put on a display of remarkable, memorable, game-stealing goaltending. His glove save on Kris Letang was not only the save of the year, but could possibly be considered the save of the century.

    When the smoke cleared on this insanely entertaining, heart-pounding game the Flyers had an 8-5 win and a two games to none lead in the series.

    The series is still alive, but so far this post-season the Flyers have provided their fans with two amazing comeback victories.

4. Game 3 1987 Stanley Cup Finals vs. Edmonton Oilers

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    In the spring of 1987, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Edmonton Oilers engaged in one of the most memorable, gutty Stanley Cup Finals in history.

    The Oilers had five Hall of Famers, had won two of the last three Stanley Cups, had an offense that define the word potent and had a guy on their team who was so good the NHL would eventually decide that no other player could ever come close to matching his skill and talent or be worthy of wearing his No. 99.

    The Flyers had future Hall of Fame defenseman Mark Howe (who wouldn't be elected to the Hall until 20 years after his last game as a Flyer), a rookie goaltender who was a powder keg waiting to explode and a bunch of young, over-achieving players many of who were playing through injury.

    Once again, as in the 1985 Finals between the two teams, the Flyers were unable to fight fire with fire as they were missing their leading goal scorer, Tim Kerr, due to injury.

    The Oilers took the first two games in Edmonton. Game two ended in overtime, which gave the Flyers and their fans the hope that the team could hang with these Oilers and possibly even make a series of it.

    The notion was put into grave doubt as the Oilers took a 3-0 lead early in the second period of game three.

    When the teams met two springs earlier, the Flyers took game one at home and then the Oilers blew their doors off four straight. This time around, it looked like the Oilers wanted to put the dagger through the Flyers' hearts immediately with a four game sweep/mercy killing.

    The Flyers had other plans.

    Murray Craven scored a goal on the power-play when he bunted the puck out of the air with the shaft of his stick. It seemed like a flukey goal that would ultimately not mean much.

    Then six minutes later Rick Tocchet attempted a pass through the goal mouth to Peter Zezel. The puck never reached the Flyers center as it glanced off the skate of Oiler defenseman Craig Muni and barely crossed the goal line. Another fluke, but hey the team was within one goal now.

    In the third period the Flyers played like men possessed and out worked the suddenly befuddled Oilers.

    Four minutes into the third period, Scott Mellanby scored off a pass from Mark Howe and the Spectrum exploded. The roof would damn near blow off just moments later when Brad McCrimmon, joining the rush, put a shot into the goal off of Grant Fuhr's pads.

    The Flyers buckled down, Hextall played outstanding the rest of the way, and Brian Propp added an empty netter to seal the deal: a 5-3 Flyers victory and amazing comeback from the dead.

    One sportswriter claimed it was the greatest he'd ever seen.

    But, this 1987 Flyers team wasn't done with remarkable come backs yet.

3. Game 2 1974 Stanley Cup Finals vs. Boston Bruins

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    In 1974, the Boston Bruins were the big kids on the block.

    They won the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972. They had Bobby Orr, at the time the greatest player in the sport and a man, I would argue, was the greatest hockey player ever to live—despite the fact the NHL, in their infinite arbitrary wisdom, still deems players worthy of wearing his No. 4.

    The Flyers had not won in Boston Garden since their first game there in 1967.

    The Bruins had the Super Stars, the Flyers had the Broad Street Bullies: lunch pail, blue collar workers.

    Game one the Bruins took 3-2.

    The series seemed to hinge on game two. If the Bruins won, they'd take control of the series, retain home ice advantage and leave the Flyers with little room for error; if the Flyers were to win, they'd seize home ice advantage and destroy the Boston Garden mystique the Bruins held.

    The Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead, and it looked like once again a member of the Old Guard, the Original Six, would simply bat away a challenge form one of the NHL's 1967 expansion teams.

    Early in the second period, however, Bobby Clarke scored on a deflection. The Bruins and Flyers battled for the rest of the game with the score 2-1 and Bruins goalie Gilles Gilbert equaling the Flyers legend Bernie Parent in goaltending ability.

    With only one minute remaining the Bruins held on to their one goal lead. Flyers coach Freddie Shero pulled Parent. The Flyers put pressure on the Boston defense and the puck came out to Flyer defenseman Andre DuPont who fired a waist with shot past the Bruins goalie to tie the game.

    The Flyers used their elite players early in overtime hoping for a quick kill, but the game drug past the 11-minute mark and Shero sent Dave Schultz on to the ice for his first shift in the extra period.

    On the fore-check, Schultz cut off a pass from the Bruins deep in their zone. He fed winger Bill Flett who had to hurry a backhanded shot toward the Bruins goal. Gilbert made an acrobatic save, but Bobby Clarke was there on the spot to fire the puck into the back of the net off of the arm of a diving Terry O'Reilly to win the game and wrestle control of the Finals away from the Bruins.

    It was one of the most memorable goals in Flyers history, and Clarke's spontaneous leap for joy has been forever immortalized with the Bobby Clarke Trophy given annually to the team's MVP.

    The Flyers went on to win the Stanley Cup in six games, never having to win a game in Boston Gardens again that post season.

2. Game 7 2010 Eastern Confernce Semi-Finals vs. Boston Bruins

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    The Flyers were down two games to none in this series and then their captain, Mike Richards, took a run at Bruins star forward David Krejci and broke his wrist in game three.

    The Bruins who were already decimated with injuries and playing with backup goalie Tukka Rask in net as opposed to Tim Thomas would not recover.

    The Bruins went on to win game three and take a seemingly commanding three games to none lead. But it was Richards' hit on Krejci that forever changed the series and NHL history.

    Say what you will about Richards, the man was an opportunist. He was in the Dale Hunter mold, except he wore a motor cycle helmet with a visor covering half of his face as opposed to the out of date skateboard Jofa helmet Hunter wore.

    Richards knew the guy to take out, and he did so.

    After three of the most sloppily played playoff games in NHL history, the Flyers had tied the Bruins 3-3 going into game seven in Boston.

    In game seven, the Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead and it looked as if the Flyers historic comeback was to fall short. It was here the legend of Peter Laviolette was to be born.

    Lavy called one of his now famous time outs. Got the team settled and James van Riemsdyk (remember him?) scored to make it a 3-1 game with just 2:48 left in the first.

    Laviolette riled up the troops during the intermission, and Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere each scored in the second period to make it a 3-3 tied game.

    In the hotly contested third period, the Flyers took advantage of a too many men on the ice penalty to the Bruins and Simon Gagne scored a power-play goal to take a 4-3 lead.

    The Flyers held the lead and at the final buzzer swarmed goaltender Michael Leighton—of all people—to celebrate their historic comeback. They became only the fourth team in all of sports to overcome a 3-0 deficit.

    Unfortunately, after facing the eighth seeded Montreal Canadiens, it meant eventually going into the Finals with Michael Leighton—of all people—as their starting goalie.

    'nuff said.

1. Game 6 1987 Stanley Cup Finals vs. Edmonton Oilers

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    After a thrilling come-from-behind game three victory that seemed to swing the momentum of the 1987 Finals in the Flyers favor, the team went out and got destroyed in game four. It was a game made famous mainly because of Ron Hextall's slash on Kent Nilsson.

    The team had to travel to Edmonton for game five with the hockey world, and the Oilers themselves sure of Edmonton's victory.

    So sure in fact that the team and the city already planned a parade for the day after game five and published it in the local papers.

    The Flyers came back from being down twice in the game—a game that could also make this list—and captured an improbable 5-4 victory in front of a stunned Northlands Coliseum crowd.

    The Stanley Cup was in the Spectrum for game six and though game five's heroics gave the team some life, the hill still seemed too big to climb for the Flyers. That hill seemed like a mountain when the Oilers jumped out to a 2-0 lead.The Oilers kept coming at the Flyers like a series of blue and orange waves.

    It is a testament to how amazing Ron Hextall was in the 1987 playoffs that the Flyers even had a shot against the Oilers. His play kept the team in game six.

    Make no mistake, Ron Hextall deserves to have his number retired by the Flyers, he may even deserve to be in the hockey Hall of Fame if only for the 1987 playoffs alone.

    If you want to see the definition of a goaltender's play being the sole reason that a team has any chance at all at victory, just watch game six of the 1987 Finals. The Flyers had no business being in that game, but Hextall and his fierce determination and competitiveness (not to mention his ability and talent) kept the game within reach.

    In the second period, with the Flyers offense absolutely stagnant and the Oilers constantly swarming, Mike Keenan put out a checking line that featured team policeman Dave Brown.

    Brown, known way more for his ability to utterly annihilate other teams tough guys than he was for his play making ability, put pressure on the Oilers in their zone.

    He dug the puck out of the offensive left wing corner and thread a perfect pass through the goal mouth to left winger Lindsay Carson who buried the pass into the goal cutting the Oilers lead in half.

    That Brown and Carson would combined to break the Oilers stranglehold on the game says a lot about that team's depth.

    In the third period, noted Oiler cheap-shot artist, Glen Anderson, swung his stick like a maniac and hit Flyers center Peter Zezel in the face and then acted incredulous at the penalty called against him.

    The Flyers answered with Brian Propp scoring the most famous goal of his career, a beautifully placed snap shot from the slot just above Grant Fuhr's glove hand.

    With the score tied at two apiece, Peter Zezel carried the puck out of the Flyers zone and the team tried to dump it into the Oilers end. Jari Kurri inexplicably, blindly tried to clear the puck and turned his back on the play. It was the perfect set up as defenseman JJ Daigneualt came to the Oiler blue line and one timed Kurri's feeble clearance attempt off the boards past the screening Scott Mellanby and just inside the post behind Fuhr's stick side.

    The Spectrum exploded.

    Players on that team still talk about the energy that could be felt in the air, coursing through the undoubtedly smoke filled Spectrum.

    The final minute of that game, with the Oilers pressing and the Flyers desperately clinging on to their lead in hopes of extending their season and their dream of a Stanley Cup victory, is arguably the most intense 60 seconds of hockey in the history of the NHL.

    With under 10 seconds remaining, Hextall tried to clear the puck out of the zone from the defensive left wing corner.

    Mark Messier leaped in the air and caught the clearing pass and advanced on a wide open net.

    Hextall slid into the crease just in time to make the save and then the rebound was fired high and wide.

    The Flyers held on to win.

    They pushed the greatest NHL team ever assembled to the limit. They forced a game six, three times refusing to roll over and die.

    For one night Poulin, Propp, Zezel, Carson, Brown, Daigneualt, Howe, Mellanby and Hextall could be mentioned favorably over Gretzky, Kurri, Messier, Anderson, Coffey, MacTavish and Fuhr.