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Return Flight: Primeau ties it, Gagne wins it

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Primeau’s miraculous game-tying goal led to Gagne’s beautiful winner to force a Game 7

NHL Eastern Conference Finals: Lightning v Flyers Photo by Doug Pensinger/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.

Keith Primeau and Simon Gagne are two of the most important names in the history of the Philadelphia Flyers. Primeau had 87 goals and 126 assists for 213 points in 312 games over six seasons with the Flyers, as well as 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points in 58 postseason games over 5 playoff runs for Philly. He was also Captain of the team for four seasons (five if you count the lockout). Gagne had two 40-goal seasons, two 30-goal seasons, and three 20-goal seasons in his 11 campaigns with the Orange and Black. He also scored 32 goals over eight postseason runs with the Flyers.

To go along with their impressive totals, both players potted a few of the biggest goals in franchise history. Primeau ended the longest game in the modern era of the NHL, while Gagne started and ended one of the greatest comebacks in NHL history. The two were also important pieces during Philadelphia’s two runs to the Eastern Conference Final in 2000 and 2004. In Philadelphia’s last win before the 2004-05 lockout, Primeau provided his last noteworthy goal for the Flyers while Gagne provided his first.

As highlighted in a previous Return Flight, the Flyers started their hopeful 2004 playoff run by dismantling the trap-era New Jersey Devils. After Jeremy Roenick sent the Toronto Maple Leafs packing in the Eastern Conference Semifinals (which might be the basis of a Return Flight next week), the Orange and Black squared off against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Despite the Flyers having one of their most dangerous teams in years, the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning weren’t exactly pushovers either. After they beat the New York Islanders in five games (with three shutouts), the Lightning held the Montreal Canadiens to just five goals in their sweep in the other Eastern Conference Semifinals. In addition to Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy winner Martin St. Louis, who had 94 points and finished fourth in the league with 38 goals, the Lightning featured Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards (who had 79 points in 2003-04), Fredrik Modin (29 goals), Dave Andreychuk, and Cory Stillman (who had 80 points and finished third in the league with 55 assists) up front. On the back end, Tampa Bay had Dan Boyle and Pavel Kubina with Nikolai Khabibulin in net.

With the most points in the Eastern Conference, the Lightning held home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference Final against the Flyers, who entered the postseason as the three seed. After the first period of Game 1 provided no goals, Andreychuk opened the scoring in the series 2:03 into the second period before Michal Handzus leveled the score at one 4:45 later. Richards provided the game-deciding tally less than seven minutes later and Chris Dingman potted his first goal of the postseason with just under 13 minutes left in regulation to finalize the score at 3-1 for Tampa Bay.

The Orange and Black made it a series the following game, as they pounded the Bolts for a 6-2 decision. John LeClair beat Khabibulin five-hole at even strength (2:04 below), Mark Recchi redirected one in on the power play (2:21), and Sami Kapanen scored shorthanded (2:39) to put the Flyers up 3-0 just 11:17 into the contest. After Vladimir Malakhov ended Khabibulin’s night 6:02 into the middle frame, Michal Handzus gave the Flyers a five-goal lead with 12 seconds left in the second period. Mattias Timander made it a six-goal difference with 16:26 left in regulation before Fedotenko and St. Louis potted the game’s final two goals. Robert Esche stopped 29 of 31, while blue liner Marcus Ragnarsson provided three assists in the win.

Although it wasn’t close on the scoreboard, Tampa Bay didn’t go down without a fight. While down 6-0 in the third period, a scrum in Philadelphia’s zone led to Danny Markov to drop the gloves with Darryl Sydor. After the pair fell to the ice, Markov tried to land a few more punches while he was on top of Sydor, which Lightning enforcer Andre Roy didn’t appreciate. As the pair were on the ice, Roy skated over and tried to pull Markov off Sydor before he threw a punch, but Branko Radivojevic came over to keep Roy under control. Radivojevic earned a misconduct for his role in the scrum, but Roy earned a game misconduct for his actions.

Less than four minutes after that scrum, Donald Brashear took runs at Tim Taylor and Cory Sarich. Dingman came to the defense of his teammates and fought Brashear shortly afterwards, while Taylor looked to take out his frustration on, ah, Patrick Sharp.

Thanks to a pair of ten-minute misconducts and a roughing minor in the final minute, Brashear finished the night with 27 penalty minutes. The Orange and Black accrued 56 PIMs, the 22nd-most in any playoff game in franchise history, while the Lightning finished with 72, tied for the eighth-most in a single playoff game by any Flyers’ opponent.

Unfortunately, the Lightning regained home-ice advantage with a 4-1 win Game 3. Stillman’s second of the postseason and Fedotenko’s fifth late in the first period was all Tampa Bay needed. Despite the fact Primeau made it 2-1 game just 36 seconds into the final frame, Lecavalier restored the two-goal lead just 43 seconds later and Richards’ sixth of the playoffs gave Tampa Bay a three-goal lead with 11:40 left in regulation. Khabibulin stopped 24 of 25 in the victory, while St. Louis threw in a pair of assists.

Tampa Bay didn’t head home with a commanding 3-1 series lead though, as the Flyers responded with a 3-2 win in Game 4 to even the series 2-2. Although Modin put the Lightning up 1-0 with a little over seven minutes left in the first period, a marker from LeClair and a pinball goal that was credited to Recchi gave Philly a 2-1 advantage at the end of one. With Malakhov in the box for cross-checking halfway through the second period, the Bolts had a pretty decent chance to even the score. However, Primeau provided a shorthanded tally that ended up being his 44th and final game-winner in either the regular season or postseason

As the roller coaster series between the two teams continued, the Flyers failed to win back-to-back games and fell 4-2 in Game 5 on the road. The Lightning scored on their first three power-play opportunities of the game (A FLYERS’ PENALTY KILL ALLOWING ALL KINDS OF POWER-PLAY GOALS AGAINST? WOW! THANK GOD THAT ISN’T A CONCERN ANYMORE) thanks to a goal from Fedotenko and two from Richards to give them a 3-0 lead with 13:48 left in the second period. Down a considerable amount due to their penalty kill, the Flyers responded quickly, as Handzus and Sharp scored 38 seconds apart to make it a 3-2 game just 2:22 after Richards’ second tally of the evening. Philly couldn’t find the game-tying goal over the next 30:11 however, as Taylor notched an empty-netter to finalize the score.

With their backs against the wall, the Flyers headed home for an attempt to force a Game 7. The must-win game didn’t start the way the home team intended, as Lecavalier scored on a 2-on-1 just 1:28 into the contest. Nearly six minutes later, Gagne managed to bat the puck past Khabibulin’s glove to even the score. Towards the end of the period, Sydor provided a pretty egregious turnover right to Malakhov at the Bolts’ blue line, who quickly fed one to Primeau at the opposite circle to give the Flyers their first lead since Game 4 with a little under three minutes left in the opening stanza.

Tampa Bay tied the game at two just 45 seconds into the second period off a Lecavalier slap shot, but Kapanen gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead with 7:18 left in the middle frame. The Lightning worked their way in front thanks to a pair of Andreychuk assists from below the goal line to Fedotenko in a span of 2:18 to go ahead 4-3 with 2:27 left in the second. That’s where the score stood until the final two minutes of regulation.

After a board battle in the corner, the puck found its way to Timander, who managed to drift a shot from the point that made its way through traffic in front to Khabibulin. The Bolts’ netminder kicked a rebound right to Primeau, who had the puck bounce off his skate and over Khabibulin’s leg pad to the other side of the crease. With Khabibulin sprawled out and Sydor in a battle with Gagne in front of the net, Primeau had the presence of mind and instinct to swing behind the net to tap in the loose puck to tie the game at four with 1:49 left in regulation. If it his most famous goal, it was definitely Primeau’s most important goal of his career.

Primeau’s second goal of the game forced overtime, where neither team provided the game-winner until closing minutes of the first overtime. Kim Johnsson carried the puck through the neutral zone with under two minutes left in the fourth period and dumped it into the corner, where Roenick chased it down. Although he dropped to his knees, Roenick managed to hit Gagne with a pass from behind the net. Gagne quickly wrapped it back around the net to Primeau, who worked his way just above the goal line before he hit Roenick with a pass at the side of the net. Roenick’s dunk attempt was denied, but the puck traveled past both Sydor and Taylor to Gagne at the other side of the net, who put it in the wide-open cage to force Game 7.

Despite the memorable outcome in Game 6, the Flyers couldn’t find a way to win Game 7, as the team fell behind 2-0 thanks to tallies from Fedotenko and Modin in what was ultimately a 2-1 loss. Johnsson made it a one-goal game with 9:44 left in the second period and Recchi provided a last-second bit of hope, but Philadelphia failed to force overtime.

What made the loss even more painful for Flyers’ fans is the fact the Lightning beat the Calgary Flames, who came out of the Western Conference as the six seed, in seven games. The Lightning may have needed the refs to miss a potential Martin Gelinas goal and two overtimes to win Game 6 to force a Game 7, but it’s easy to ask if the Flyers could have won it all as well if they had a shot at the Flames.

Previous Return Flights