Flyers' big comeback sinks Bruins
Philadelphia will host the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday
The Philadelphia Flyers came back from being three down twice in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Boston Bruins, with Simon Gagne scoring the Game 7 winner on a power play late in the third period on Friday night to give his team a 4-3 victory.
Gagne scored his fourth goal in four games since returning from a leg injury at 12:52 of the third, set up by captain Mike Richards. It was the fourth straight goal for the Flyers in the game, and it came after the Bruins incurred a penalty for too many men on the ice.
The Flyers won the final four games in the series, following the Toronto Maple Leafs (1942) and New York Islanders (1975) as the only teams to come back from 3-0 deficits to win NHL playoff series.
"I think guys are excited that we won, but I don't think anyone in our room thinks anything's been accomplished yet," said defenceman Chris Pronger. "We've got eight more wins to go to get to what we set our sights on."
Philadelphia's comeback might surpass their predecessors, as their margin of error in Game 4 was just a single shot in overtime. It was Gagne who gave the Flyers new life in that game with the extra-time winner.
The Flyers also found themselves down 3-0 by 14:10 of the first period on Friday on a pair of Milan Lucic goals for Boston. But the Bruins stopped skating and the Flyers got into the game, erasing the deficit in a span of just 14½ minutes.
"We've been resilient all year, whether it's been injuries or putting ourselves in a bad position in the standings and we've been through a lot together this year," said Richards. "Our mindset was if we're going to go down, we're going to go down swinging.
"We just fought back and took it one goal at a time."
Philadelphia will host Montreal to begin the Eastern Conference final on Sunday night on Hockey Night in Canada (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET). It will be the first ever matchup of seventh and eighth seeds in an NHL conference final.
Boston suffered the indignity of being on the wrong side of an epic comeback, although most hockey observers felt the Flyers were unlucky to not manage a win in the first three games of the series, all tightly contested.
The Bruins were hampered by season-ending injuries early in the series to two of their best skaters, Marco Sturm and David Krejci, but Boston coach Claude Julien wasn't in the mood to parse the stunning the outcome.
"I'm not going to stand here and find excuses," said Julien. "The bottom line is: We had a 3-0 lead in the series, we had a 3-0 lead tonight, and we blew both.
"So there is no excuses. We have to take the responsibility that goes with it, everyone."
Boston buzzed in the first five minutes of Friday's game but was off-target on most of its shots. The Bruins connected after Scott Hartnell took a penalty, with Zdeno Chara's hard shot resulting in a rebound that Michael Ryder potted behind Michael Leighton for his fourth of the playoffs.
Philadelphia had its first great chances at the seven-minute mark on shots from Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino, but Daniel Briere squelched their momentum with an undisciplined penalty.
Boston made the Flyers pay, with Dennis Wideman rushing down the right side to feed Lucic in the slot for the big forward's second goal in as many games.
The Bruins kept coming, and while Marc Savard narrowly missed his chance, Lucic scored on a wrister through Leighton's pads on a two-on-one.
Boston, outmuscled by Philadelphia in the three consecutive defeats, was winning the physical battles as well. Defenceman Johnny Boychuk sent Hartnell back to the Flyers' bench shaken up.
The Flyers called a timeout and soon after got a much-needed break when Van Riemsdyk fanned on a low shot but scored his first of the playoffs. The misfire caught Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask off balance, and the puck slid into the net at 17:12.
"The timeout was just to try and slow things down, get us back in there," said coach Peter Laviolette. "I think the biggest thing in the message was: just score one goal. Just get on the board and get in the game."
Philadelphia had the Bruins standing around in their own zone early in the second, and Hartnell lifted a rebound over Rask for a one-goal game just three minutes into the frame.
Van Riemsdyk was left alone not long after on a break, but Rask made a stick save.
The Flyers couldn't convert on their first power play, but they pounced on a Bruins turnover in the neutral zone. Hartnell picked up the puck and fed Briere, who spun around behind the net and fired a high wraparound to stun the TD Garden crowd.
Video review was needed after a scramble in Boston's crease with five minutes left in the period to confirm that the puck didn't cross the goal-line.
Leighton wasn't tested often, but he had to contend with traffic in front to make a pad save on a Wideman blast.
Boston had the Flyers reeling early in the third but could not beat Leighton. Pronger and Lucic hit the post at opposite ends of the ice.
The clubs had played 25 minutes without a goal until Gagne found the mark.
"Simon is an elite player in the National Hockey League," said Laviolette. "He's a pure goal scorer and when he's at his best he's hard to stop."
The goal was set up by Leino behind the net, who passed to Richards. Gagne received the second pass in the right circle and snapped a shot high into the net.
The Bruins pulled Rask but couldn't get a clean shot on Leighton.
Philadelphia is 8-6 in Game 7 scenarios, with Boston falling to 9-10.