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Return Flight: Markov ends the trap

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With Stevens’ career over, the Flyers finished the Devils as we knew them.

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Throughout the season, we’ll be taking a walk down memory lane whenever the Flyers open their season series against an opponent. We’ll be remembering a game, goal, or highlight Philly created while playing against that particular team. It won’t always be the most notable memory the Orange and Black have against that team, but it’ll be something that Flyers’ fans will want to remember.

Danny Markov scored a total of 31 goals in 619 total NHL games over nine seasons. One of those 31 goals was the 10,000th goal in Philadelphia Flyers franchise history. Another one came in the postseason for the Flyers and seemingly closed one of their biggest rivals’ championship window.

The Flyers kicked off the early 1990’s by missing the postseason for five straight seasons, but returned to the playoffs in 1995 following a lockout-shortened regular season. After knocking out the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Rangers in a total of nine games in the first two rounds, the Orange and Black took on the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Final in the teams’ first postseason meeting.

Despite dropping a heated Game 1 4-1 and Game 2 5-2 in Philly, the Flyers responded with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 3 thanks to Eric Lindros’ winner, who had 29 goals and 41 assists for 70 points in 46 of the 48-game 1994-95 season. Following the 1995 Hart Trophy winner’s overtime tally, the Orange and Black won Game 4 on the road by a final count of 4-2 thanks to goals from Shjon Podein, Mikael Renberg, Rod Brind’Amour, and Eric Desjardins. The infamous Claude Lemieux goal won Game 5 for New Jersey before they took Game 6 by a score of 4-2 to send Lindros home in his first NHL postseason. They proceeded to sweep the Detroit Red Wings in the 1995 Stanley Cup Final.

After four postseasons, including the 1997 playoffs that saw the Legion of Doom carry them to the Stanley Cup Final before being swept, the Flyers ran into the Devils again in the 2000 postseason. Philly beat the Sabres in five games and the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games while the Devils swept the Florida Panthers and beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in six to square off in the Eastern Conference Final.

Although they dropped Game 1 4-1, the Flyers rattled off three straight wins to come within one victory of earning a spot in the 2000 Stanley Cup Final. They proceeded to drop Game 5 4-1 and lost Game 6 2-1 in Jersey before the infamous Game 7 defeat in Philly. Just like in 1995, the Devils then went on to win the Stanley Cup after knocking out the Flyers the round before.

New Jersey went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2003 for their third title in nine seasons before the clubs met again in the 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. This time around, things were a little different. For one, Joe Nieuwendyk, who had 45 points during the regular season and nine more in 17 postseason games the season before, had moved on to the Toronto Maple Leafs. More importantly, the team’s captain Scott Stevens only played 38 games in what would be his final season in the NHL, as he started to deal with post-concussion syndrome in January. Stevens’ notable career essentially ended due to this and he doesn’t remember when he suffered the concussion that caused him to miss most of that season. Although they still had Brodeur, Scott Niedermayer, and Brian Rafalski serving as key factors to play the trap, this was the Flyers’ time to beat the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

As winners of the Atlantic Division, the Flyers had home-ice advantage as the three seed in their series against the sixth-seeded Devils. With a goal 10:19 into the contest from Simon Gagne and a power-play tally from Jeremy Roenick early in the second period, Keith Primeau’s goal with 16:29 left in regulation of Game 1 felt like it put the game away for the hosts. However, Patrik Elias scored just 22 seconds after Primeau to make it a two-goal game and Jan Hrdina potted one 35 seconds after Elias to make it a 3-2 tilt with 15:32 left. Luckily, Robert Esche came through with a 37-save effort and kept New Jersey from tying the game to give Philly Game 1.

Game 2 felt like much of the same for the Flyers, as Esche managed to outplay Brodeur in a 3-2 win. Hrdina scored his second goal in as many games early in the second period to erase a deficit caused by a power-play goal from Mark Recchi in the opening stanza, but Alexei Zhamnov restored Philly’s lead just 2:40 after Hrdina’s strike. Mattias Timander made it a 3-1 game halfway through the third period and Brian Gionta provided the game’s final goal with 5:25 left in regulation. After two games, Esche had a .938 save percentage on 65 shots while Brodeur had an .864 save percentage on 21 less shots and admitted the home team didn’t let him handle the puck the way he was used to doing so. Despite the fact they may have not come out and said it, the Devils seemed to be getting a little tired of Esche standing on his head, as indicated by Elias’ shoving match with the netminder at the end of Game 2.

With the series shifting to New Jersey, the Devils fought off a pair of one-goal deficits and used a little luck to get back into the series with a 4-2 decision. Roenick’s second goal of the postseason came on the power play and was the lone goal in the opening frame, but Elias leveled the score at one just 1:26 into the second period. Tony Amonte restored the Flyers’ lead 1:47 later with Hrdina in the sin bin, but Jersey answered right back with a power-play goal from Paul Martin 1:42 after Amonte’s tally. With 2:32 left in the second period, Elias gave the Devils their first lead of the series thanks to a power-play goal going in off the hip of Kim Johnsson. Brian Gionta netted the home team’s third man-advantage goal of the game with 13 minutes left in regulation to finalize the score.

Esche showed he was human with the 19-save effort in the Game 3 defeat, but that sentiment didn’t last too long, as a 35-save shutout in Game 4 put the Devils on the brink of elimination. Two nights after being helplessly at fault for the Devils’ game-winning goal, Johnsson provided the game-winner just 1:18 into the contest. Zhamnov and Primeau widened the lead to three in the third period, but the story of game was Esche’s play in net.

As the series shifted back to Philadelphia, the Flyers attempted to shut the door on the Devils in Game 5, something they couldn’t do in three chances just four years earlier. Thanks to a Zhamnov goal in the first period and Niedermayer’s first goal of the postseason in the second, the teams were tied at one late in the third period. With just 5:23 left in regulation, Markov took a pass from Zhamnov at the Flyers’ blue line and carried it through the neutral zone before he released what seemed like an innocent wrist shot that found its way through a Colin White block attempt and Brodeur save attempt before it bounced off the post and in.

Now this seems like a rather soft goal for Brodeur to give up, and some might say it’s the most painful goal he’s ever given up. However, it’s important to remember other times Brodeur suffered painful goals against in the playoffs, such as:

It was Markov’s only playoff goal with the Flyers and one of his two game-winning goals for Philly in either the regular season or postseason. Sami Kapanen put the nail in the coffin of the series with an empty-net goal with 7.5 seconds left in regulation.

The Flyers went on to end another franchise’s championship window in the second round before ultimately falling in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.

As for Markov, the 2004 postseason was the end of his tenure with the Flyers. Following the 2004-05 lockout, he spent a season with the Nashville Predators and a season with the Detroit Red Wings. He went 94 games without a goal following his Game 5 winner, but that probably doesn’t matter to most Flyers’ fans.

*Stats via Hockey-Reference

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