Return Flight: Pronger beats Hawks with 2.1 seconds left

Chris Pronger provided late-game heroics in a Stanley Cup preview.

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.

Considering the type of player he was and the type of antics Chris Pronger brought both on and off the ice, it shouldn’t be too surprising he’s the main focus of another Return Flight. After he was featured in one for his ability to be a jerk, this Return Flight will focus on a play that illustrates how he could do whatever his team needed to win.

Although there were definitely fun moments for Philadelphia Flyers’ fans during the 2010 Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks, the ending and the overall outcome are things we as a fanbase would rather not focus on. The Orange and Black weren’t able to end a lengthy Stanley Cup drought, but the ride the team took the fans on that postseason is one we’ll never forget.

Despite downing the New Jersey Devils with ease, providing perhaps the biggest comeback in the history of sports against the Boston Bruins, and then walking over the league’s most storied franchise (thanks to the original shift), the crazy ride wasn’t just limited to the postseason. Every Flyers’ fan remembers the shootout win over the New York Rangers to get into the 2010 playoffs, which showed that the Flyers needed every single point they earned throughout that season. A pair of those points came thanks to the great hockey IQ of Pronger in what wound up being a Stanley Cup preview in March of that season.

With the end of the season less than a month away, the Flyers had worked their way back into the playoff picture following a disastrous 3-13-1 stretch in the middle of the campaign. Following a 3-1-1 record to open the month of March, Philly dropped a 5-1 decision to the Boston Bruins on March 11th, 2010 thanks to a three-point game from Patrice Bergeron and a 31-save effort from Tuukka Rask. To avoid missing out on four crucial points while in the hunt for a playoff spot, the Flyers needed to rebound just two days later against a Blackhawks’ team that had won 44 of their first 66 games. Although they had won seven straight meetings with the Hawks in Philadelphia, the meeting with one of the Stanley Cup favorites from the Western Conference was far from a sure thing this time around.

Although the first 40 minutes went by without a goal, the teams exchanged plenty of chances. Despite being outshot 27-21, outchanced 25-23, and trailing in shot attempts 56-47 after two periods, Philly managed to jump out to the game’s first lead with just 18:42 left in regulation. As Daniel Carcillo carried the puck behind Cristobal Huet’s cage, he circled around to the front of the net and lost control of a wraparound attempt. Luckily, the puck went cross ice to Simon Gagne, who was able to beat an out-of-position Huet.

Gagne’s goal served as the differential on the scoreboard for all of 1:43 before future Flyer Kris Versteeg tied the score on a rebound set up by Marian Hossa. Thanks to a nice pass from Troy Brouwer later in the frame, Hossa scored a goal of his own to give Chicago their first lead of the game with just a second over seven minutes remaining. With time winding down and the Flyers inching closer to missing out on another crucial pair of points, an amazing stretch pass from Kimmo Timonen found Scott Hartnell, who muscled his way past Brent Sopel and beat Huet to end a 13-game goal drought.

With the Flyers just 2:04 away from gaining at least a point in the standings, Hartnell’s first goal in a month and a half on an incredible three-line slap pass was about to become the second-most memorable play in the win.

On their last chance of the game, Claude Giroux led a 3-on-2 rush with Hartnell and Pronger. While Hartnell drove the slot, Philly’s current captain threaded a pass through three Hawks to the former Flyers’ captain for the game-deciding goal with 2.1 ticks left.

Huet found himself on the wrong side of a few very notable game-losing goals from 2008 to 2010. After he was in net for Mike Knuble’s double overtime game-winner in Game 4 of the Flyers Eastern Conference Quarterfinals meeting with the Washington Capitals and Joffrey Lupul’s Game 7 overtime winner three games later, he left the Caps and joined the Blackhawks for the 2008-09 campaign. After he let Washington’s 2007-08 season end on an overtime goal in the posteason, he did the same for Chicago when Darren Helm put home a loose puck in the crease in Game 5 of the 2009 Western Conference Final to send the Detroit Red Wings to the Stanley Cup Final. Although this loss in March was not nearly as important as those three defeats, losing a game in the final seconds despite having a lead just over two minutes earlier has got to suck (as illustrated by the slamming of his stick on the crossbar after Pronger’s tally).

The Orange and Black have won their last six meetings with the Blackhawks in Philadelphia to extend their streak to 14 straight on home ice against Chicago. Their last defeat came on November 9, 1996 in a 4-1 decision where Tony Amonte and Gary Suter had two-point games for the visitors. As for how the team responded to the dramatic win, the Flyers won two of the final nine games they played in March of 2010. Despite that rough stretch, we know how the end of the 2009-10 season panned out for Philly.

Previous Return Flights