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Return Flight: The Shootout

An unlikely outcome started one of the unlikeliest postseason runs in franchise history.

New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Jim McIsaac/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.

Over the years, regardless of how successful or unsuccessful the team is, the one dreaded word Philadelphia Flyers’ fans don’t want to hear is shootout. Although they have won their only shootout this season, the Flyers have the third-least amount of shootout wins with 43 since the league instituted the game-deciding process back in 2005. The only teams with less wins than the Orange and Black are the Carolina Hurricanes with 40, who had Cam Ward and his .909 save percentage in net for 13 years, and the Vegas Golden Knights, who have five victories through half of their second season as a franchise.

Despite their lack of success in the skills competition, the Flyers have had some memorable wins come via the shootout. Danny Briere solidified a win over his former teammate Ryan Miller and former team the Buffalo Sabres for a 4-3 decision back in February of 2008 to end a 10-game losing streak. In 2012, Claude Giroux paid homage to Pavel Datsyuk to give the Flyers a 1-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The most important shootout victory in franchise history, however, came on April 11, 2010 against one of the three franchises who have a league-leading 75 shootout wins.

As mentioned in previous Return Flights, the 2009-10 season was a pretty wild ride. After a 3-13-1 stretch from late November to late December, Philly went 21-9-2 to put themselves in the playoff conversation with a record of 36-27-4 with 15 games left in the regular season. Naturally, they didn’t make it easy, as they endured a five-game losing streak and lost seven of eight while only gaining a point in the standings to make the final four games of the season extremely tense. With a record of 38-34-6 after a 1-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens thanks to a 35-save shutout from Jaroslav Halak, the Flyers sat in a tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference with the New York Rangers, who were 36-32-10.

Following a 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings, where Daniel Carcillo potted his 12th goal of the season 17 seconds in and Arron Asham provided the game-winner late in the second period, and a 2-0 win over the Maple Leafs, where Brian Boucher preserved a one-goal lead in the final minutes with a goal-line save, the Flyers sat at 86 points after 80 games. They were two points ahead of the Rangers with each teams’ final two games being against one another to close out the season.

Again, the Flyers didn’t make it easy, as they lost the first part of the home-and-home at Madison Square Garden by a score of 4-3. Mike Richards scored just 40 seconds into the contest and evened the score at three late in the second period with his 31st goal of the season, but Marian Gaborik’s 42nd goal of the season came 2:13 after Richards’ second to give New York a critical pair of points in the standings. In a game with such importance, Philadelphia allowed Jody Shelley to score his first goal of the season.

With both teams at 86 points, the regular season finale took place at the Wachovia Center in a win-and-in game with a spot in the 2010 postseason on the line. The Flyers dictated play throughout, as they threw 78 overall shot attempts at Henrik Lundqvist with 47 of those attempts on net. King Henrik was up to the task, as he provided one of his six 46-save performances over his career in the must-win game. Although Boucher didn’t face as many shots, he did stop 24 of the 25 shots he saw in the tilt.

After he ended his 63-game goal drought in the previous game, Shelley gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead just 3:27 into the contest, which Chris Pronger provided payback for late in the second period. Shelley’s tally was the lone goal until over two periods (and one Ian Laperriere-Aaron Voros fight) later, when Matt Carle backhanded in a rebound on the power play to tie the game with a little over 13 minutes left in regulation. These were the only goals scored in regulation.

If he only knew.

Carle and Braydon Coburn had Philly’s two shots in overtime, while Erik Christensen and Gaborik had New York’s pair of shots in the extra frame before the teams took part in perhaps the most significant shootout in NHL history. The Blueshirts had the advantage when it came to the skills competition, as Lundqvist entered this shootout with a 30-20 record thanks to a .755 save percentage on 188 shot attempts against. Boucher was 2-5 with a .471 save percentage.

Briere opened the shootout with his second shootout goal of the 2009-10 season with a backhand-forehand move to beat Lundqvist’s glove. Christensen also attempted a forehand-backhand move, but was denied by Boucher’s blocker. After Richards was stopped, P.A. Parenteau fumbled the puck for a second before he fluttered a shot over a sprawled out Boucher to even the shootout at 1-1 after two rounds with his third shootout goal in as many attempts.

With the chance for a game-winning shootout goal, Flyers’ head coach Peter Laviolette put his trust in Giroux. The future captain of the team came through, as he slowed down in the slot before he fired one five-hole on Lundqvist to put the Orange and Black one save away from the postseason. When it came to a decision on a season-saving shootout attempt, Rangers’ head coach John Tortorella chose Olli Jokinen over Gaborik. Unlike Giroux, Jokinen failed to prove his head coach made the right decision, as he took a few laps in the corner of the ice to think of ways to miss his attempt before he glided a harmless shot into Boucher’s left pad to seal the Flyers a trip to the 2010 postseason.

Sad Michael Del Zotto

Boucher may have stumbled right after the shootout, but Philly didn’t stumble when it came to their playoff opportunity. They may have not won the Cup, but the 2009-10 Flyers gave us one of the craziest rides of any squad in franchise history and it was all made possible due to a shootout win in the final game of the regular season.

Previous Return Flights