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.
The Philadelphia Flyers’ 2007-08 season is probably one of the more unique seasons in franchise history. As mentioned in a previous Return Flight, general manager Paul Holmgren made some major changes at the 2007 trade deadline and during the offseason to allow the Orange and Black to jump from a team that finished last in the league by 11 points in 2006-07 to getting within three wins of the Stanley Cup Final in 2008. The additions of Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen, Scottie Upshall, Martin Biron, Joffrey Lupul, Jason Smith, and Ryan Parent, Philly immediately went from the league’s doormat to a contender.
After the team jumped out to a 6-1-0 start thanks to an 8-2 win over the Canucks in Vancouver and 4-0 victories over the Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils, the Flyers found themselves at 16-14-4 at Christmas after a 6-5 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres capped off a six-game slide. Following a five-day break for Christmas, the Flyers went on a 14-3-1 run to improve to 30-17-5 in early February. Firmly positioned near the top of the Eastern Conference standings, the Orange and Black then decided it would be fun to endure a ten-game losing. A stretch where the Flyers only grabbed two out of a possible 20 points ended thanks to a come-from-behind shootout victory in Buffalo on February 25th, 2008.
Briere’s dagger helped the Flyers grab 12 wins over the final 20 games of the regular season to help the team finish sixth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 42-29-11. Since this was 2008 and Philly was sixth in the conference they faced the division champion with the fewest amount of points, which happened to be the Washington Capitals. A team that was looking for its first playoff series win since 1998 and failed to reach the postseason five of the eight seasons since they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1998 Stanley Cup Final, the Caps entered the 2008 postseason with a lot of excitement and hope. A team that won 11 of their last 12 games of the regular season entered the playoffs with home-ice advantage and some new young sniper by the name of Alex Ovechkin. Along with Ovechkin, who scored 65 goals in 2007-08, the group of Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, and Alexander Semin were all making their playoff debuts. Washington also had Brooks Laich (who potted 21 goals in 2007-08), Viktor Kozlov, Michael Nylander, Sergei Fedorov, Flyers Legend Boyd Gordon, Donald Brashear, Matt Cooke, and Cristobal Huet.
The series started off on a sour note for Philadelphia as they blew a two-goal lead in the third period to lose Game 1 5-4 at the Verizon Center. After Vinny Prospal answered a Brashear goal in the first period, the Flyers responded to a David Steckel tally early in the second frame with three goals in a 3:36 span including Briere and Prospal striking 33 seconds apart to make it a 4-2 game heading into the final period. Green made it 4-3 within the first two minutes of the third stanza before he tied the game with 13:34 left in regulation thanks to a power-play tally where Patrick Thoresen legitimately almost broke his balls and somehow play wasn’t whistled dead. With 4:32 left in regulation, Lasse Kukkonen failed to get rid of a puck quick enough in front of Biron and turned it over to Ovechkin, who scored the first playoff goal of his career.
The Flyers evened the series with a 2-0 victory in Game 2. Biron made 24 stops and only needed Braydon Coburn to spring R.J. Umberger with a multi-line pass just under six minutes into the contest, but he also received an insurance marker from Jeff Carter off a Mike Knuble rebound later in the first period to finalize the score.
Philadelphia gained a lead in the series with a 6-3 decision in Game 3. After Briere opened the scoring with 3:50 left in the first period, Eric Fehr evened the game with his first of the postseason just 1:11 later. The Flyers entered the second period up by a pair of goals after Hartnell potted his first playoff goal in the Orange and Black 1:05 after Fehr’s equalizer and Jim Dowd intercepted a Milan Jurcina outlet pass and set up Sami Kapanen 17 seconds after Hartnell’s goal. Green made it a 3-2 on the man advantage halfway through the second period, but Briere restored the two-goal lead in the final ticks of the middle frame with a power-play goal of his own. In a one-goal game late, Mike Richards delivered on a penalty shot attempt and celebrated directly in front of the Caps’ bench to drive home the win.
In a crucial Game 4, the Flyers needed a greasy goal from Knuble 6:40 into the second overtime for a 4-3 victory and a 3-1 series lead heading back to Washington for Game 5. Carter had a goal in the opening minute of the game and a goal in the final two minutes of the first period to make it a 2-2 contest after 20 minutes. Soon-to-be Flyer Steve Eminger gave the Caps a lead in the second period, but Briere made it a 3-3 tilt with 9:59 left in regulation thanks to an incredible cross-ice pass from Richards on the power play. Despite unthinkable stops on Upshall and Knuble in the third period, Huet couldn’t stop the pressure the line of Upshall-Carter-Knuble line in the second overtime as Knuble put home his own rebound to end the game.
Philly failed to win the series over the next two games, as a 3-2 defeat in Washington in Game 5 and a 4-2 loss in Game 6 in Philly forced a Game 7 at the Verizon Center on April 22, 2008. It marked the fifth and most recent time in franchise history the Flyers were forced to a Game 7 after holding a 3-1 series lead.
The decisive game didn’t get off to the greatest start for the visiting squad. With Hartnell already in the sin bin for interference, Derian Hatcher joined his teammate in the box exactly five minutes into the contest to give Washington a 5-on-3 power play for 48 seconds. Backstrom put home a rebound on an Ovechkin blast from the point that missed the net and banked off the endboards to the Swedish forward on the other side of the net to let the Caps benefit on the two-man advantage. This is where the score stood for nearly ten minutes before an Upshall slap shot from the top of the circle on the power play dribbled through Huet and crossed the goal line to even the score with 4:22 left in the first period.
The second period featured one of perhaps the luckiest plays in Flyers history. Thoresen (with all his body parts intact) carried the puck into the Caps’ zone and moved it across the slot to Kapanen, who provided a shot on net that resulted in a rebound. Thoresen proceeded to truck Washington defenseman Shaone Morrisonn, who was kinda near the loose puck, into Huet. As Morrisonn and Huet slid out of the crease and towards the corner, Kapanen jumped on the loose puck in the circle and fired it into the empty net to grab a 2-1 lead. It was shocking to see the goal stand back in 2008, and with video review in the league now there is no way this goal would have stood if it had happened in today’s game.
Philly benefited from the fortuitous call for a little over five minutes before Ovechkin unleashed a missile past Biron to make it a 2-2 game with 4:31 left in the second period. Despite owning all three of the high-danger chances, outshooting the Caps 7-4, and providing 13 of the 18 shot attempts in the third period, the Flyers couldn’t win in 60 minutes and the score stayed 2-2 at the end of regulation. This marked the second and most recent time Philadelphia took part in a Game 7 overtime. Ironically, the only other time came against the Caps as well, but it was one of the aforementioned five series where the Flyers were forced to a Game 7 after holding a 3-1 series lead and Dale Hunter made them pay for it.
After a pretty blatant infraction by the Caps early in the overtime period went unnoticed by the officials, a Tom Poti trip of Umberger in the neutral zone did not and put the Flyers on a power play 4:15 into the extra frame. Late in the man advantage, a faceoff to Huet’s left resulted in the puck going into the corner and being retrieved by Lupul, who moved it to Richards on the side wall. Richards threw it across the ice to Briere in the slot, who had his shot blocked by Steckel with the puck traveling back to Timonen at the point. The Finnish blue liner wired an attempt that found its way to Huet, who made the save and thought the rebound had bounced into the corner to his left. Unfortunately for him, the disc was laying on the other side of the ice just outside the crease, which allowed Lupul to backhand home his first playoff goal as a Flyer to clinch the series for Philadelphia.
The Flyers’ attempt at going from worst to first continued with a five-game series victory over the top-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the next round, but injuries to Timonen and Coburn as well as a 3-0 series deficit knocked them out in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
*All stats via Hockey Reference and Flyers History.
Previous Return Flights
- Vegas Golden Knights
- Colorado Avalanche
- San Jose Sharks
- Ottawa Senators
- Florida Panthers
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- New Jersey Devils
- Boston Bruins
- New York Islanders
- Anaheim Ducks
- Los Angeles Kings
- Arizona Coyotes
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Buffalo Sabres
- New York Rangers
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- Winnipeg Jets
- Calgary Flames
- Edmonton Oilers
- Vancouver Canucks
- Detroit Red Wings
- Nashville Predators
- Carolina Hurricanes
- St. Louis Blues
- Minnesota Wild