In both the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons, the Philadelphia Flyers prevailed in grueling wars of playoff attrition against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The teams' 2003 series was especially compelling, with three of the games going to double or triple overtime before the Flyers finally prevailed in a Game Seven blowout victory (6-1) on home ice.
Game Four proved to be the most pivotal game of the series. After losing a double-overtime heartbreaker in Game Three, the Flyers stared at a likely unrecoverable three-games-to-one deficit if they lost the next match in Toronto. The Flyers needed 75 shots on goal (a whopping 75-38 shot advantage, including 37-10 during regulation) and 113 minutes and 54 seconds worth hockey to do it, but they finally prevailed by a 3-2 score in triple overtime to square up the series at two games apiece.
In regulation, all of the scoring was done early in periods.
Mark Recchi scored a short-side goal just 1:16 into the game. Travis Green responded with a short-handed goal at 4:06 as he got Roman Cechmanek to commit early and flipped the puck into the upper portion of the net to knot the game at 1-1.
The Flyers retook the lead 54 seconds into the middle frame. Jeremy Roenick stripped former Chicago teammate Ed Belfour of the puck behind the Toronto net. With the goalie hopelessly caught out of position, Roenick had an easy unassisted wraparound goal. In the opening minute of the third period, however, Roenick took a retaliatory slashing penalty on Darcy Tucker, and Maple Leafs star Mats Sundin cashed it in on the power play to tie the game at 2-2.
Philadelphia outshot Toronto 15-12 in the first overtime, and 14-9 in the second overtime. The Flyers had an 8-7 shot edge as the third OT clock ticked down near 6:10 remaining in the sudden death frame as Recchi carried the puck into the right circle and fired off a wrist shot. Belfour got some of the puck but not enough to stop it from trickling over the goal line. Had the puck not gone in on Recchi's shot, Flyers left winger John LeClair was arriving at the net with body position on a Leafs defender and would have had a tap-in.
Recchi's second goal of the game and fourth of the series put the Flyers in strong position with a best-of-three series and two games on home ice remaining. The home team won each of the remaining games.
The series, which turned out to be the minutes-played equivalent of nine-plus hockey games and featured scores of heavy hits and several injuries, took a heavy toll on both teams. The Flyers were worn down and banged up before facing the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Nevertheless, the victorious series against the Maple Leafs was one of the team's top accomplishments of the Ken Hitchcock era.
April 16: Through the Years
- 1968: The Flyers force a seventh and deciding game in their war of a Stanley Cup Quarterfinal series with the St. Louis Blues; the first playoff series played in the history of the two expansion franchises. Philly takes a 2-1 road overtime decision on a Don Blackburn goal after Andre Lacroix's game-tier in the final 15 seconds of the third period extends Philly's playoff life. Bernie Parent has a mind-boggling performance in net, stopping 63 of 64 Blues shots.
- 1980: The Flyers open their Stanley Cup Quarterfinal series with the New York Rangers with a 2-1 win at the Spectrum. Behn Wilson scores the game winner in the third period after an early-game goal by Rick MacLeish. Pete Peeters (29 saves) earns the win in net.
- 1987: The Flyers emphatically close out their first-round series with the New York Rangers with a 5-0 shutout win at Madison Square in Game Six behind rookie goaltender Ron Hextall (34 saves). Derrick Smith, Doug Crossman, Lindsay Carson, Brad Marsh (second goal of the series) and Tim Kerr (3rd) provide the goal support.
- 1995: The Flyers win a memorable Easter Sunday showdown with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Spectrum. Pittsburgh self-destructs with late-game penalties that lead to Mikael Renberg tying the game on a power play in the final 20 seconds of the third period and then Rod Brind'Amour scoring the overtime winner during carryover time on yet another Pittsburgh penalty at the end of regulation. Philly prevails, 4-3.
- 2000: Rookie goalie Brian Boucher blanks the Buffalo Sabres on 17 shots as the Flyers grab a three games to zero stranglehold on their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with a 2-0 win. John LeClair, who was credited with a highly controversial phantom goal through the side of the netting in the previous games, scores a conventional one for the game winner. Mark Recchi adds an empty-netter in the final minute of the match.
- 2011: The Flyers even up their first-round playoff series with the Buffalo Sabres at one game apiece with a 5-4 home ice victory. After a wild first period that sees both teams score three times and Flyers starter Sergei Bobrovsky (four saves on seven shots) get removed just 12:30 into the game, Philadelphia takes control with a pair of latter second period goals. The Sabres get one back in the third but the Flyers hold on for the victory. Claude Giroux, Dan Carcillo, James van Riemsdyk, Ville Leino (power play) and Danny Briere (game-winning goal) score for the Flyers. Veteran goalie Brian Boucher stops 20 of 21 shots in relief of Bobrovsky.
- 2013: The Flyers earn a 4-2 regular season home win over the New York Rangers. Recently acquired goaltender Steve Mason plays brilliantly, earning first-star honors with a 38-save gem. Brayden Schenn, Erik Gustafsson, Kimmo Timonen and Jakub Voracek score for Philly.
April 16: Flyers Birthdays
- A standout offensive player during much of the leanest period in Flyers' history, defenseman Garry Galley was born in Montreal on April 16, 1963. He was raised in Ottawa.
- Big-framed defenseman Mattias Timander was born in Solleftea, Sweden on April 19, 1974.