A sometimes-frequent look back at how the Philadelphia Flyers have fared on this day, recalling some of the more memorable moments, achievements, and events that shaped the organization throughout the club's storied history. They say it's tough to not go on repeating history, but there is nothing wrong with keeping the memories of great occasions alive and well
The Flyers have an evenly-divided 3-3 mark in six playoff contests that took place on May 20, winning one time and dropping two decisions in games on this day that took overtime to decide.
1975: Rene Robert's bad angle shot made its way through a thickening blanket of fog and Flyers netminder Bernie Parent to give the Sabres a come-from-behind 5-4 victory in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium, cutting Philadelphia's series lead to 2-1.
This game is remembered for two rather strange but legendary occurrences:
A bat made its way into the old arena and was flying around the player's heads, so Sabres' center Jim Lorentz took a swing and killed it with his stick just prior to a faceoff. Rick MacLeish scooped the bat off the ice and discarded it over top of the end boards.
It was an unseasonably warm day in the Buffalo-area, and the old Aud was not an air conditioned facility. Shortly after the Lorentz incident with the bat, a dense fog developed over the playing surface. With the skaters and the puck becoming increasingly difficult to see, play had to be stopped more than a handful of times for the players to skate around their respective ends to help lift the fog.
With the game knotted at 4-4 in extra time, Buffalo's French Connection line would come up with the decisive sequence. With visibility worsening at ice level, Gilbert Perreault sent a long shot that Parent couldn't see. The puck missed the net and went to the right wing corner boards, where Robert gathered it and rifled a quick shot from the goal line that somehow found its way between the surprised goaltender's pads and into the net.
Leading 2-1 on the strength of goals by Derrick Smith and Brian Propp after two periods of play, Edmonton turned up their offensive attack and swarmed Hextall in the third. They outshot the Flyers 15-5 in the frame and knotted it up on a Glenn Anderson tally midway through the stanza, and it was only due to several miraculous stops from the combative goalie that the contest wasn't over during regulation time.
Hextall nearly stole the game, as Propp beat Grant Fuhr but hit the post just minutes before Kurri's game-winner.
1997: Trent Klatt snapped a 3-3 deadlock late in regulation and Eric Lindros netted his first postseason hat trick as the Flyers downed the New York Rangers 6-3 at Madison Square Garden, giving Philly a 2-1 Eastern Conference Final series lead over the Broadway Blue Shirts.
Philadelphia took a 2-0 lead on first period markers from Lindros and Petr Svoboda, both of which had a measure of controversy to them. Lindros' had to go to a video review, in which it was confirmed that the captain's shot had indeed crossed the goal line. Svoboda's came after Rangers' goalkeeper Mike Richter lost his stick, which appeared to be cleared further away from him by Dainius Zubrus prior to Svoboda's goal being scored. Though Richter was livid -- and with good reason to be incensed -- the officials did not detect Zubrus' infraction, and the goal stood.
The lead held up until the third period, but it would prove to be a wild final twenty minutes.Russ Courtnall got the home squad on the board within the first minute of the frame while N.Y. was skating with a man advantage courtesy of a late-second period high-sticking double-minor to defenseman Michel Petit, and the Garden faithful -- which had been uncharacteristically quiet with Philly holding a two-goal lead -- was suddenly its usual raucous self again.
Rod Brind'Amour scored a power play goal and appeared to restore the two-goal lead, but it was waived off because John LeClair had been ruled to be in the New York crease.
It turned out to be a huge momentum swing when Courtnall beat Ron Hextall a second time in the stanza, tying the contest at 2-2 at 4:02 of the third.
A Lindros slap shot gave the Flyers a lead again just over two minutes later, but Wayne Gretzky -- left all alone in front of the Flyers' goal -- was the recipient of a Mark Messier feed after jumbled communication between Hextall and defenseman Janne Niinamaa evened it up at 3-3 with just 5:39 remaining.
But the Rangers coughed up a two-on-one 38 seconds later, and Klatt put home a Shjon Podein feed for the game-winner. Brind'Amour sealed the deal less than two minutes later with one that couldn't be disallowed, beating Richter with a gorgeous move on a breakaway, before Lindros hit the empty net at 19:22 to record the hat trick, his only one in the playoffs during his time with the Flyers.
2000: Craig Berube snapped a 1-1 tie with 7:02 remaining in regulation and Brian Boucher stopped 24 of 25 shots to lead the Flyers to a 3-1 triumph over the New Jersey Devils at Continental Airlines Arena.
The tie lasted into the latter stages of the third, when Berube deflected defenseman Dan McGillis' point shot past Martin Brodeur for the eventual game-winner. The goal was Berube's first point of the 2000 postseason, and couldn't have come at a better time.
Simon Gagne clinched the victory by putting a beautiful Eric Desjardins feed behind Brodeur to make it 3-1 and give Philly a 3-1 Eastern Conference Final series lead.
2004: The duo of Keith Primeau and Simon Gagne pulled the Flyers off the mat just when it appeared their season as about to be over. Primeau scored late in regulation to tie the score and Gagne won it in overtime in a 5-4 Eastern Conference Final series Game 6 thriller that forced a deciding Game 7 with the Lightning back in Tampa Bay.
After Vincent Lecavalier opened the scoring on a breakaway 1:28 into the contest, a backhander by Gagne and a Primeau one-timer off a Vladimir Malakhov feed forged a 2-1 lead for the home team by the first intermission.
After a Lecavalier slap shot just 45 ticks into the middle frame tied the score at 2-apiece, but the versatile Sami Kapanen -- who moved back to his familiar wing position after he had been forced to play on a Philadelphia blue line that was decimated by injuries for most of the series -- took a pass from Alexei Zhamnov and blew a slap shot past Nikolai Khabibulin to restore the Flyers' lead almost 12 minutes later.
But Tampa would not go lightly, and took the lead on a couple of similar-looking strikes from former-Flyer Ruslan Fedotenko, taking feeds from Dave Andreychuk in the slot and one-timing slappers past Robert Esche within a 2:18 span late in the stanza to give the Bolts a 4-3 lead heading into the third.
Though Philadelphia tilted the ice surface towards the Tampa cage for much of the third -- they outshot Tampa, 17-5 in the period -- Khabibulin appeared to have the answer for everything the Flyers threw at him.
That is, until Primeau's dominant playoff run continued to reach legendary status in South Philly.
With the game clock winding down below two minutes remaining in regulation time, the captain crashed the crease to Khabibulin's right and forced the puck through the goaltender but to the other side of the net. Primeau skated around the back of the cage and jammed home the tying goal with 1:49 left to send the First Union Center crowd into an all-out frenzy.
Overtime held the same tempo, as Philly continued to get great scoring chances. As it seemed that multiple extra periods might be in the offing, the line of Gagne, Primeau, and Jeremy Roenick would come up with another batch of late-frame heroics.
Primeau's initial shot was blocked by Lightning defender Pavel Kubina, and the puck went to Roenick, whose shot was stopped by Khabibulin. The rebound kicked out to Gagne at the right circle, and the Tampa netminder couldn't get enough of his shot to keep it out of the net as it deflected off Khabibulin and into the net.
"The puck went right to my stick and I shot it as hard as I could," Gagne said after the game of his first career postseason overtime marker.
As for Primeau, his two goals and two assists in an elimination contest gave him nine goals, 16 points, and a +11 rating in 17 games during the club's playoff run. Not bad for a player who had managed only nine total goals over the course of his first 110 postseason outings prior to 2004.
"It's not just me, it's everyone around me," Primeau said of his ongoing Conn Smythe-worthy performance that spring. "I think our team showed a lot of courage the way we battled back."