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Return Flight: Richards gets in Bernier’s head

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The forward had a little fun with his future club before helping them win a few Cups.

Philadelphia Flyers v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

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.

In hockey, it’s always ironic when two players who have an on-ice history become teammates. Shouting matches, shoves of aggression, and punches to the face almost always seemingly become water under the bridge once they become members of the same squad. One example (which, to be fair, wasn’t TOO heated) in recent Philadelphia Flyers’ history was Mike Richards and Jonathan Bernier.

The former Flyers’ captain and, at one time, a promising up-and-coming goaltender in the Los Angeles Kings’ system exchanged verbal barbs in a 7-4 win for the Orange and Black out on the West Coast back on December 30, 2010. There isn’t too video of the original back-and-forth between the two, but Richards kept egging Bernier on before the netminder was pulled 33:12 into the contest after he allowed a sixth goal on the 22nd shot he saw.

Much like every other #FlyersAfterDark game, there were some quirky things to take place during this game. For one, Michael Leighton appeared in his first NHL game since Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final (I don’t remember how that game ended. What’s this now?). It was Leighton’s only game for Philly during the regular season despite the fact he’d appear in a pair of playoff games later that season due to Peter Laviolette’s Traveling Goaltending Carousel Tour of 2011. As a result, Leighton provided an .889 save percentage with 32 saves on 36 shots, but still managed to record the win at the Staples Center that evening. The first goal he allowed that night to Ryan Smyth just 2:39 into the game looked like a goal a goalie playing in his first NHL game of the season would allow.

The Kings would have the game’s only goal until a little over four minutes later, when Richards started the abuse of his future teammates with a great feed to Danny Briere in the slot, who beat Bernier to even the score before executing his classic celebration.

The teams traded goals minutes later, as a soft tally by former Flyer/at the time King Justin Williams on a delayed penalty was answered by at the time Flyer/future King Richards, who registered his second point of the tilt with his first goal of the evening. As the time ticked down in a roughing minor for Nikolai Zherdev, Claude Giroux managed to hit Richards with a pass in the neutral zone shortly after Zherdev exited the penalty box. Richards then used Zherdev as a decoy before rifling one past Bernier to even the score at two with 4:12 left in the opening stanza.

The second period is when things started to get tense. The Flyers gained a 4-2 lead thanks to a Scott Hartnell goal that Bernier felt was kicked in (but after a review stood as a goal) and James van Riemsdyk setting up Richards for a tap-in tally just 1:06 after Hartnell’s marker. Current Pittsburgh Penguin Jack Johnson scored exactly three minutes after Richards to make it a one-goal game before the Flyers’ captain and Bernier started jawing at one another.

NHLI via Getty Images

The trash talking reached its peak after Jeff Carter potted a goal on a two-man advantage to make it 5-3 Philadelphia with nine minutes left in the middle frame. As the other four Flyers on the ice skated together to congratulate Carter, Richards decided to skate by Bernier and (I assume) asked him how everything was going.

Richards received an unsportsmanlike conduct minor for his actions, but the Kings failed to capitalize on the power play and Philly failed on their next power play chance with Jarret Stoll in the box for slashing. Williams went to the sin bin after Stoll, which is when JVR sniped one past Bernier to make it a three-goal game with a little under six minutes left in the period.

Smyth netted his second goal of the game before the close of the period, but Ville Leino finalized the score of 7-4 when he beat Jonathan Quick halfway through the third period.

The win marked the third time that season the Flyers potted seven tallies in a game, but only the second time they would win a game when scoring that many (the loss coming in the infamous 8-7 game against the Tampa Bay Lightning a month earlier). It was the first time they recorded seven goals or more against Los Angeles since their 10-2 win almost exactly 18 years earlier, when Rod Brind’Amour provided his only hat trick as a Flyer and the only six-point game of his career to help a Flyers’ team that finished 17th in a 24-team NHL beat the eventual Clarence Campbell Conference Champs.

It was also Giroux’s first game with three assists or more (he now has 18 such games), as well as one of JVR’s 78 multi-point games and Jeff Carter’s 157 multi-point games to date. For Richards, it was the fifth of his six four-point games in the NHL, with his final one coming a few weeks later in a fight-filled 6-2 victory for the Flyers over the Ottawa Senators. Six months after this game, Richards became Bernier’s teammate when he was dealt to the Kings with Rob Bordson for Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, and a second round pick in 2012. Richards and Bernier went on to win a Cup together in 2012, as Richards had 18 goals and 26 assists for 44 points during the regular season to go along with 15 points in 20 games during the postseason while Bernier only played during 16 regular season games and didn’t play in the postseason for the eighth-seeded Kings.

Richards went on to win another Cup with Los Angeles in 2014 before he had a sloppy divorce from general manager Dean Lombardi and the franchise in October of 2015. He then signed with the Washington Capitals in January of 2016, where he had two goals and three assists in 39 regular season games before taking part in all 12 of Washington’s postseason games (where he perfected a Classic Mike Richards Hit on Nick Cousins) in the 2016 NHL postseason. This was Richards’ last stint in the NHL.

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