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Return Flight: Hartnell’s hat trick propels historic comeback

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He also beat the crap out of a guy named Casey.

Carolina Hurricanes v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/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.

This past Thursday, the Philadelphia Flyers were able to gain a point in the standings despite the fact they entered the third period down 5-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Orange and Black failed to complete the comeback, as Alex Killorn grabbed the Bolts the second point 18 seconds into the extra frame. This wasn’t the first time the Flyers forced overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning this season despite trailing by multiple goals late, as they accrued four goals in a 6:04 span in the final 10:52 of regulation to erase a 5-1 lead on November 17th at the Wells Fargo Center. Again, Philly failed to complete the comeback though, as Anthony Cirelli finalized another 6-5 overtime loss for the Flyers on a great individual effort. It’s not often a team is able to win a game after trailing by multiple goals in the final stanza, let alone even tie the game like the Flyers have twice this season, but a little over ten years ago Philadelphia accomplished the feat against another former Southeast Division opponent.

The 2008-09 season started off pretty poorly for the Orange and Black. Although they scored 20 goals in their first six games, the Flyers managed to start this particular campaign 0-3-3. They didn’t have issues scoring, but keeping the puck out of the back of their own net was the team’s biggest issue, which was highlighted by their 7-6 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks. The team registered their first win of the season two days later on October 24th with a 6-3 win in New Jersey against the Devils before they returned home to beat the Devils the following day in a unique 3-2 overtime contest for their first pair of wins in a four-game winning streak.

Eventually, the team worked their way to a record of 14-7-6 in the middle of December when they faced off against the Carolina Hurricanes, who had recently fired future Flyers’ head coach Peter Laviolette. Eric Staal led this iteration of the Canes with 40 goals during 2008-09, while Ray Whitney led the squad with 77 points to help Carolina make a surprise run to the 2009 Eastern Conference Final. Cam Ward was the team’s starting goaltender, as he finished the regular season 39-23-5 with a .916 save percentage, but the Flyers faced a future teammate on this night.

Michael Leighton was Ward’s backup and took to the crease in Philadelphia for this game, while the Hurricanes featured a few other former Flyers in Rod Brind’Amour, who is currently the Canes’ head coach, and Justin Williams, who is currently...being coached by Brind’Amour. As for Philly, they entered the game with Mike Richards centering Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble while Scott Hartnell-Jeff Carter-Joffrey Lupul, Andreas Nodl-Glen Metropolit-Scottie Upshall, and Arron Asham-Darroll Powe-Riley Cote made up the other three lines. On the back end, Kimmo Timonen was paired with Ossi Vaananen, Braydon Coburn was paired with Luca Sbisa, and Andrew Alberts was paired with Lasse Kukkonen in front of Antero Niittymaki.

The game didn’t start off that great for the Flyers, as Tuomo Ruutu made a pass from below the goal line to Staal in front, who backhanded one past Niittymaki just 1:01 in. This was the only goal of the opening period, and Philadelphia lost the shot count 10-9 in the first period, but the team did make a statement when Hartnell pummeled Casey Borer. This wouldn’t be Hartnell’s only contribution to the team in this contest.

After Matt Cullen made it a two-goal game early in the second, Hartnell made it a one-goal game halfway through the middle frame with a redirection on the power play. Sergei Samsonov quickly restored Carolina’s two-goal lead 11 seconds later to start a surge of three Hurricanes’ goals in 5:45 to make it 5-1 with 4:47 left in the second period. This is where the score stood at the end of 40 minutes.

More times than not, a four-goal deficit with 20 minutes or less to play could easily be chalked up as a loss. With Hartnell completing the fourth of his nine career hat tricks with 12:48 left in regulation thanks to a pair of tallies on rebounds, the second of which was accompanied by a classic #HartnellDown, suddenly the Flyers were only down by two. After Alberts slid a pass over to Kukkonen for a shot from the point, Upshall grabbed the rebound in the slot and put it on his forehand to beat Leighton for his fifth goal of the season with 4:52 left in regulation to make it a one-goal game. Knuble then set up Gagne for the game-tying goal and his 15th of the 2008-09 campaign with 1:44 left in regulation, the Flyers fourth goal in a span of 16:34 to force overtime.

After an overtime period that saw Carolina put four shots on Niittymaki and Philadelphia put three shots on Leighton, the teams went to a shootout. In their third shootout of the season, the Flyers were looking for their first win in the skills competition. Gagne avoided a charging Leighton to score on the first attempt of the shootout and Richards scored in the second round to put the Flyers up 2-0. After Niittymaki gloved away a Brind’Amour attempt, the Orange and Black ended their 30-game stretch without a shootout win and completed their largest comeback in a single game since they overcame another 5-1 deficit in their 11-6 win over the Detroit Red Wings on February 23, 1988.

The Flyers’ win helped the team finish fifth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 44-27-11 and a first-round meeting with the Pittsburgh Penguins, which Philly ultimately lost in six games. The Hurricanes, on the other hand, upset the New Jersey Devils in deliciously painful fashion and the Boston Bruins before being swept by the Pens in the Eastern Conference Final.

*Stats via Hockey Reference and NHL.com

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