Ranking the Top 5 Moments in the Flyers-Penguins Rivalry
The rivalry between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins is one of the most intense in the NHL today. It heated up again this past weekend when the Flyers swept a vital home-and-home series from Pittsburgh to gain four valuable points in their push for playoff position.
"The Battle of Pennsylvania" has featured some of the most exciting games in either team's history since it got under way in 1967. Future Hall of Famers like Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux have all taken part in games that have fans of both teams screaming for blood.
Here is a look back at the top five moments in the history of this rivalry from a Flyers' perspective. The rankings are based on a combination of the importance of the game, the uniqueness of the feat accomplished and the players involved in the game.
Feel free to comment on any of these moments or to mention one you feel belongs on this list but did not make the final cut. As always, indicate why you feel the way you do.
5. A Double Hat Trick: March 22, 1984.
It was a multiple-milestone game for the Philadelphia Flyers on March 22, 1984, when they crushed the Penguins 13-4 at the Spectrum.
Two Flyers registered hat tricks in this game—both Dave Poulin and Ilkka Sinisalo had three goals and also added one assist in the game.
In addition, winger Tim Kerr had two goals and three assists. His first goal of the game was his 50th of the season, marking the first time Kerr would reach the 50 goal mark. He would tally more than 50 scores for three more seasons in a row before injuries slowed him down.
The Flyers led 3-0 just 4:53 into the game and had a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes. Philadelphia made it 6-1 midway through the second period before three straight goals by Pittsburgh pulled the visitors close and made the score 6-4.
The third period was all Philadelphia. The Flyers scored seven goals on 16 shots against Denis Herron who played the entire game in goal despite giving up 13 tallies.
The Flyers finished the season with 98 points while the Penguins had a league-worst 38. They earned the first overall pick in the 1984 draft and selected Mario Lemieux who ended up saving the franchise and intensifying the rivalry between these two teams.
4. 1989 Patrick Division Playoffs
It took more than two decades for the Flyers and Penguins to meet in the playoffs, but when it finally did happen in the second round of the 1989 postseason, it was a memorable series that went a full seven games.
The teams split the first two games of the series in Pittsburgh with Tim Kerr registering a hat trick in Game 2 for Philadelphia. In the third game of the series, Phil Bourque of the Penguins scored at 12:08 of overtime to put Pittsburgh ahead 2-1 in the series.
The Flyers won Game 4 to even things up at 2-2 before suffering an embarrassing 10-7 loss at the Igloo in Pittsburgh which left the Orange and Black just one game away from elimination.
The Flyers stayed alive with a 6-2 win at the Spectrum in Game 6 to set up a seventh and deciding game back in Pittsburgh.
The game was tied 1-1 in the second period when Dave Poulin scored a short-handed goal at 6:57 of the second period to put the Flyers ahead 2-1. Mike Bullard scored early in the third period to make it 3-1 Philadelphia before Scott Mellanby scored into an empty net with 28 seconds left to give the Flyers a 4-1 victory and eliminate Mario Lemieux and the Penguins from the playoffs.
Ken Wregget made 39 saves to earn the win for the Flyers including 12 in the final 20 minutes. The Flyers also killed off seven of Pittsburgh's eight chances on the power play.
The two teams wouldn't meet again in the playoffs for another eight years. Meanwhile, the Flyers had drawn first blood.
3. 2012 Playoffs: The Flyers Pull an Upset
The Penguins were considered favorites to win another Stanley Cup in 2012, but they ran into a surprise roadblock in the second round when they faced the Flyers.
Philadelphia won the first two games of the series in Pittsburgh. Jakub Voracek scored the overtime winner in Game 1 to give the Flyers a 4-3 win and a 1-0 series lead.
In Game 2, both Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux registered hat tricks in an 8-5 win and the Flyers had control of the series and a 2-0 lead.
The Flyers took a commanding 3-0 lead in the series when the series returned to Philadelphia, crushing the Penguins 8-4 in a fight-filled contest. Daniel Briere led the Flyers' attack with two goals and an assist while Matt Read also scored twice.
It wasn't easy to close out the Penguins, however. They stayed alive with a 10-3 win in Philadelphia and then downed the Flyers 3-2 in Pittsburgh in Game 5.
Game 6 was played back in Philadelphia and the Flyers knew they had to win it to prevent the series from returning to Pittsburgh for Game 7.
Claude Giroux scored just 32 seconds into the game to put the Flyers up 1-0 and the home team never looked back. Giroux assisted a power-play goal by Scott Hartnell midway through the first period and an even strength tally by Erik Gustafsson in the second period as the Flyers cruised to a 5-1 win to clinch the series in six games.
The win gave the Flyers four wins over the Penguins in six playoff series between the two rivals.
2. A Five Overtime Marathon
On May 4, 2000, the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins met in the longest and most dramatic single game in the history of this great rivalry.
The Penguins led the series 2-1 and would have taken a commanding lead had they won Game 4 in Pittsburgh.
Alexei Kovalev gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead just 2:22 into the game when he beat Brian Boucher to score the game's first goal. Boucher would go on to make 57 saves in the game and did not yield another goal.
The Flyers didn't answer until John LeClair's power play goal at the 4:47 mark of the third period. Martin Straka was in the penalty box for the Penguins when LeClair scored on Ron Tugnutt.
Regulation time ended with the game still deadlocked at 1-1.
Overtime became a marathon and a test of endurance. The teams played another four periods and part of a fifth before the game finally ended when Keith Primeau scored at 92:01 of overtime to even the series at 2-2 and end the third-longest overtime game in NHL history.
Tugnutt made 70 saves in a losing effort for Pittsburgh while Boucher kept the Penguins off the board for the final 149:39 of the game.
"We were just looking to stay patient, get a score," Primeau told Sports Ticker (via Sports Illustrated). "Unfortunately, it took three hours."
Defenseman Chris Therien called it, "the most exciting event I've ever been involved with in hockey."
The Flyers gained the momentum after winning the marathon contest and won the final two games to clinch the series in six games.
1. The Streak
The Philadelphia Flyers maintained one of the most impressive home winning streaks one professional sports team had against another when they played 42 straight games against the Penguins at the Spectrum without losing a game (39-0-3).
The streak started on February 7, 1974, during Philadelphia run to their first Stanley Cup title and didn't end until February 3, 1989, when the Penguins beat the Flyers 5-3.
The Flyers outscored the Penguins 223-95. The biggest win was an 11-0 shutout on October 20, 1977, and also won games by scores of 9-2, 11-4 and 13-4.
The streak lasted through the tenure of five American presidents (Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush).
The Flyers had five different head coaches during the streak (Fred Shero, Bob McCammon, Pat Quinn, Mike Kennan and Paul Holmgren) while the Penguins went through eight (Ken Schinkel, Marc Boileau, Johnny Wilson, Eddie Johnston, Lou Angotti, Bob Berry, Pierre Creamer and Gene Ubriaco).
The Flyers registered six shutouts and six hat tricks over the 42-game streak.
It was pure dominance that lasted five years after Mario Lemieux joined the Penguins and remains one of the most impressive home unbeaten streaks in NHL history.