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 previous Return Flights, we’ve covered two of the Philadelphia Flyers’ three series from the exciting yet painful 2004 postseason. In discussing both Danny Markov putting an end to the trap-era New Jersey Devils’ window and Simon Gagne forcing a Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final, the Flyers’ win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference Semifinals has been mentioned. It’s now time to give one of the most exciting series-winning overtime goals in NHL history some recognition.
Before he was providing hot takes and doing shenanigans for NBCSN, Jeremy Roenick had a pretty successful career. Although Patrick Roy would point out that Roenick never won a Stanley Cup, Roenick had 1,216 points in 1,363 regular season games with five different teams over 20 years to go along with 122 points in 154 postseason games. Out of those totals, 173 points came with the Flyers in 216 regular season games over three seasons with 21 points in 36 postseason games. Seven of those 21 points were goals with one of them being the only playoff overtime winner he didn’t record with the Chicago Blackhawks. As far as Flyers’ fans are concerned, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Before the NHL lost a season to a lockout, the Toronto Maple Leafs had one of the better teams in the league. In the six postseasons from 1999 to 2004, the Maple Leafs made the playoffs each year and won seven series. Of those six postseason runs, Toronto squared off against the Flyers three times. After they got the best of the Orange and Black in their six-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinals meeting in 1999, Philly won their two most recent playoff meetings. The two teams didn’t meet again until the 2003 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, where the Flyers sent Toronto packing in the second-longest series in NHL history in regards to actual playing time, thanks to a pair of double-overtime winners for the Leafs and a triple-overtime winner from Mark Recchi.
The second meeting was the 2004 postseason. After the Flyers defeated the Devils in five games and the Maple Leafs edged out the Ottawa Senators in seven games, the two met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. With the Orange and Black as the three seed and the Leafs as the four seed, Philly held home-ice advantage in the series. Game 1 started with Tony Amonte putting in a rebound that Roenick created off an offensive zone draw a little over seven minutes into the contest. Alexander Mogilny tied the game at one on a rather innocent backhander a little over seven minutes after Amonte’s tally. Marcus Ragnarsson’s only playoff goal with the Flyers served as the game-winner 5:11 into the middle frame before Gagne finalized the score of 3-1 on a rebound off a John LeClair attempt with under five minutes left in regulation.
Philly opened the scoring in Game 2, thanks to a DONALD BRASHEAR POWER-PLAY GOAL. Fighting for position in front of the net, Brashear put home his second attempt off a Recchi feed for the only playoff power-play goal of his career before a scrum broke out in front of Ed Belfour’s crease. Tie Domi leveled the game at one with 6:12 left in the second period after he redirected a Clarke Wilm centering pass past Robert Esche’s glove. Alexei Zhamnov gave the Flyers a 2-1 win thanks to a power-play marker with Robert Reichel in the sin bin for holding early in the third period. Esche stopped 48 of 50 to help Philly gain a 2-0 series lead before the teams went to Toronto.
The Flyers regained the series lead in Game 5 with authority, as they won by a score of 7-2 thanks to a Keith Primeau hat trick. Recchi intercepted a pass from Bryan McCabe in the offensive zone to open the scoring and Michal Handzus scored 1:52 later off a drop pass from Gagne to put Philadelphia up 2-0 5:43 in. Primeau made it a three-goal lead with a little over a minute left in the opening frame, as he put a forehand-backhand move on Belfour to beat the netminder for a shorthanded goal. Joe Nieuwendyk scored on the same power play with 34.7 seconds left in the first period to make it 3-1 heading into the second period. Primeau notched his second goal of the game 44 seconds into the middle stanza off a great pass from Gagne. Branko Radivojevic, Handzus, and Gary Roberts all scored before the halfway point of the game to make it a 6-2 tilt after 40 minutes. Primeau completed his hat trick with 16:10 left in regulation thanks to another great feed from Gagne, who found the Flyers’ captain in the slot with a pass from behind the net. Primeau’s hat trick was the Flyers’ 20th playoff hat trick in franchise history and one of 23 Flyers’ playoff hat tricks.
As the series shifted back to Toronto for Game 6, Philly looked to advance to the Eastern Conference Final with their first road win of the series. After one, it looked pretty good for the visitors, as Radovan Somik’s only goal of the 2004 postseason and Roenick’s third put the Flyers up by a pair after 20 minutes. This is where the score stood until the third period, when the Leafs pushed back and ultimately tied the game at two. After a draw in the Flyers’ zone, Karel Pilar potted his only NHL playoff goal from the point to make it a one-goal game with 10:56 left in regulation. As the Maple Leafs continued to surge, Mogilny hit Roberts with a pass at the top of Esche’s crease. Although Esche was able to prevent Roberts’ chance, the puck bounced to the slot, where Mats Sundin put one past Esche to make it 2-2 with 4:52 left in regulation.
As the game moved into overtime, Toronto kept dictating play and provided several scoring chances that somehow couldn’t find the back of the net. In one of the few times the Flyers actually left the defensive zone in the first seven minutes of the extra frame, Handzus let go of a wrist shot that was deflected high and wide of Belfour, and wrapped around the boards to the right point. Sami Kapanen attempted to grab the puck off the boards, but was annihilated by Darcy Tucker.
As Kapanen struggled to get off the ice, the Leafs carried play the other way for a few moments before Recchi led a 2-on-1 with LeClair, which resulted in a rebound that LeClair couldn’t quite corral. Sundin attempted to enter the Flyers’ zone after Recchi’s chance, but ultimately lost the puck to Joni Pitkanen, who fired a pass out of the zone to Roenick in the neutral zone. Roenick, who came on to replace Kapanen, led a 2-on-1 with Amonte which resulted in the forward ripping one glove high on Belfour to bring the ACC to complete silence.
It was Roenick’s eighth of the nine two-goal playoff games of his career, as well as the fourth time in franchise history the Flyers won a playoff series on an overtime goal. Despite absorbing Tucker’s monstrous hit, Kapanen didn’t miss a game and dressed up for the opening contest of the Eastern Conference Final. As for the Leafs, they wouldn’t reach the postseason again until 2013.
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