Only the die-hards were left in the stands, and even some of them were asleep when Keith Primeau finally put an end to the third-longest game in NHL history.
The Flyers centreman scored at 12:01 of the fifth overtime to give Philadelphia a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins and square the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal at two games apiece.
With both teams showing the fatigue of 152 minutes of hockey, Primeau took a Dan McGillis pass, raced down the right wing, skated into the circle and fired a wrist shot over the shoulder of Pittsburgh goalie Ron Tugnutt. The marathon ended almost exactly seven hours after the puck was first dropped.
"As the game went on I honestly started to feel better," Primeau told Hockey Night in Canada. "There was a lot more room in the neutral zone and I just wanted to try and capitalize."
The Flyer victory continued the series' home ice jinx. The visiting team has won all four games. Game 5 is Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia.
"The sun's going to shine tomorrow," Penguins right winger Matthew Barnaby said. "You see your family, you want to get over it, get ready for Sunday."
"I think there are things we can rally around," Pittsburgh coach Herb Brooks said. "But we can't jump up and down about it."
It was the longest NHL game since the 1930s, the third longest in history. On Mar. 24, 1936 Detroit beat the Montreal Maroons 1-0 in an overtime that lasted 116 minutes 30 seconds and on Apr. 3, 1933 Toronto beat Boston 1-0 in an overtime that lasted 104 minutes 36 seconds.
Both goalies were exceptional. Tugnutt stopped 70 of 72 shots, while rookie Brian Boucher made 57 saves, including several spectacular stops in overtime.
"This was incredible," said Tugnutt, who also stopped 70 shots in a regular-season game nine years ago. "Between periods you just try to get a drink, you just started to feel yourself seizing up. People were starting to ask what period it was."
Alexei Kovalev drew first blood at 2:22 of the first on a long blast from just inside the blue line that caught Boucher by surprise. Janne Laukkanen assisted.
A fluke goal at 4:47 of the third tied the game. On the powerplay, the Flyers' Daymond Langkow drew the puck back to Eric Desjardins, whose blast from the point was apparently tipped by John LeClair past Tugnutt.
But, with the Penguins howling that LeClair's stick was higher than the crossbar when it touched the puck, referee Rob Shick called upstairs for a video review. Officals called the replays inconclusive and the goal was credited to LeClair, although it looked as if Penguins defenceman Bob Boughner was actually responsible for the tip.
The two teams took turns dominating the overtime sessions. The Flyers got most of the good scoring chances in the first overtime, with Langkow missing off the crossbar with only 30 seconds gone.
In the second OT frame, the Penguins had the better chances. Kovalev missed off the right post at 1:40 -- exactly the same shot he missed in the Flyers' 4-3 overtime victory in Game 3.
The third overtime featured a rarity -- three power plays, two by Pittsburgh.
Midway through the period, the Flyers inexplicably were called for too many men on the ice. On the power play, Penguins superstar Jaromir Jagr one-timed a shot from the right side that hit the side of the net, narrowly missing the near goalpost.
Philadelphia gained its lone overtime power play three minutes later when defenseman Darius Kasparaitis was called for holding Primeau. But the Flyers were unable to beat Tugnutt.
The Flyers had six shots during their power play and 13 in the third overtime.
The fourth overtime was a draw with the Flyers getting 10 shots on Tugnutt, while the Pens fired nine pucks at Boucher.
"Into the last period, whatever it was, I didn't say a single thing," Flyers interim coach Craig Ramsay said. "I just pointed to them when they came on the ice who would start. I was almost as exhausted as them."
Pittsburgh carried play in the opening four minutes of the final overtime period. In just his ninth career playoff game, Boucher was up to the task.
Jagr, held pointless for the second straight game, had his spinning backhander in the low slot stopped by the rookie goalie 9:17 into the fifth overtime.
Less than three minutes later Primeau ended it.
"Primeau made a good move, made a good shot," Tugnutt said.