Matt Rourke/Associated Press
Dornhoefer's goal inspired a statue that was placed outside the Spectrum.
The Flyers were in their sixth NHL season in 1972-73. They had qualified for the postseason three times before but had yet to win a playoff series. Gary Dornhoefer's overtime goal in Game 5 of the 1973 quarterfinal against the Minnesota North Stars helped change that.
With the series all even at 2-2, the Flyers hosted Game 5 at the Spectrum on April 10, 1973.
Rick MacLeish had scored twice to give Philadelphia a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes, but Minnesota forward Bill Goldsworthy scored with seven minutes left in regulation time and the game headed to overtime all even at 2-2.
The North Stars outshot the Flyers 5-3 through the first eight-plus minutes of overtime, but goalie Doug Favell kept Minnesota off the board.
Then, Dornhoefer ended the game with a spectacular goal at 8:35. He made an end-to-end rush skating past Goldsworthy and then defenseman Barry Gibbs. As he cut toward the front of the net, the veteran Flyers forward switched the puck from his forehand to his backhand and beat goalie Cesare Maniago just before defenseman Tom Reid came to move him out of the slot.
Dornhoefer's goal set off a wild celebration in the Spectrum with the goal scorer himself raising his arms in a triumphant pose.
“I don’t even know how I scored," Dornhoefer told The Philadelphia Bulletin after the game (as reported by Bill Meltzer on the Flyers' official Web site). "I just remember getting the puck at center ice, and fortunately it stayed right with me. You could try that play again a hundred times and it wouldn’t work.”
The Flyers held a 3-2 series lead and closed things out in Game 6 in Minnesota with a 4-1 win just two days later. For the first time in franchise history, the Flyers had won a playoff series.
Just one year later, the Flyers were champions. Dornhoefer was a big part of both Philadelphia Stanley Cup wins.
The goal was so significant and Dornhoefer's reaction so memorable, it was immortalized in a statue that was erected outside the Spectrum.
This goal was the moment the Flyers arrived and announced to the rest of the NHL they would soon be a force to be reckoned with. Gary Dornhoefer was the messenger.