Entering Game Four of their 1996 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against Terry Crisp's Tampa Bay Lightning, Terry Murray's Philadelphia Flyers trailed two games to one after back-to-back overtime losses.
Over the previous two games, after the top-seeded Flyers cruised to a 7-3 blowout win in the series opener and then scored in the opening two minutes of Game Two, the series quickly turned into a war of attrition with questionable hits and clutch-and-grab tactics galore.
John LeClair (ankle), John Druce (knee), Joel Otto (sprained left knee) and Eric Lindros (knee, later returned to the game) got hurt in Game 2, making Tampa defensemen Igor Ulanov and Michel Petit - who had inflicted much of the damage - public enemies 1A and 1B in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Mikael Renberg, playing through a sports hernia that cost him much of the second half of the season, was strategically speared by Tampa Bay defenseman Cory Cross early in the game. He stayed in the game.
With key Flyers' bodies dropping, the playing field was leveled. Tampa tied Game Two in the third period and then won in OT, 2-1, on a Brian Bellows goal.
LeClair returned for Game Two. Tampa took its first and only lead of the series - holding it for a span of 7:38 - in the first period before the Flyers scored three straight goals to take a 3-1 lead by the early stages of the second period. Tampa battled back to tie the game at 3-3. Philly went ahead again on a Lindros goal early in the third period but a rare cleanly lost faceoff by Otto and a coverage breakdown enabled Bellows to score with 1:19 left and force OT. Alexander Selivanov, a former Flyers draft pick, won the game for Tampa just 2:04 into overtime.
To avoid falling into a three games to one deficit in the series, the Flyers needed a win in Tampa Bay in Game Four. Philly responded with a 4-1 victory.
John LeClair scored twice. Mikael Renberg earned two assists and Dale Hawerchuk and Joel Otto collected a goal apiece. Winning goaltender Ron Hextall stopped 21 of 22 shots, while Tampa's Jeff Reese turned back 29 of 33 Philadelphia shots.
With the Flyers comfortably ahead late in the game, there was a late parade of slashing and roughing penalties to both times. Hostilities would bubble over repeatedly in the next two games of the series but, between the whistles, Tampa never really got another realistic sniff at a potential series upset. The Flyers captured 4-1 (home) and 6-1 (road) victories to close out the series, once again never trailing either chippy contest. Near the end of Game Six, Lindros punctuated the series by dropping the gloves with Ulanov and winning a lopsided fight.
April 23: Through the Years
- 1974: The Flyers grab a two games to zero lead in the Stanley Cup Semifinal playoff series with the New York Rangers as they earn a 5-2 win at the Spectrum. Goals by Bobby Clarke, Ed Van Impe, Ross Lonsberry (mid third period shorthanded goal and later an empty-net power play tally) and Rick MacLeish provide the goal support. Bernie Parent stops 28 of 30 shots.
- 1978: Philadelphia grabs a commanding three games to one lead over the Buffalo Sabres in the Stanley Cup quarterfinals as they skate to a 4-2 victory at the Aud in Buffalo. First period goals by Bob "the Hound" Kelly, Ross Lonsberry (power play) and Rick MacLeish set the pace. Bill Barber's third goal of the playoffs is sandwiched between a pair of Buffalo tallies by Craig Ramsay (later a Flyers assistant and head coach). Bernie Parent (31 saves on 33 shots) outduels Don Edwards (23 saves on 27 shots) in goal.
- 1985: The Flyers claim a 5-3 win in Uniondale over the New York Islanders to put a three games to zero stranglehold on their Wales Conference Semifinal series. A mid second-period shorthanded goal by Brian Propp proves crucial to holding off a subsequent Islanders' charge. Doug Crossman, Rick Tocchet, Ron Sutter and Ilkka Sinisalo (empty net) also score for Philly, while Pelle Lindbergh makes 36 saves in a game in which Philly gets outshot by a 39-21 margin. and 264th regular season goal of his 702 games with the club -- proves to be his final one in the orange and black.
- 1989: Two nights after dropping a 4-3 overtime decision at the Spectrum, the underdog Flyers skate to a 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins to knot the Patrick Division Finals (Wales Conference Semifinals) at two games apiece. Tim Kerr's ninth and 10th goals of the postseason come on the power play in the second period to forge a 3-1 lead after team captain Dave Poulin (one goal, one assist) tied the game late in the first period. Defenseman Terry Carkner's shorthanded tally in the third period is a dagger to the Penguins' hearts on this night. Pelle Eklund and Brian Propp each collected a pair of assists, while Ron Hextall stopped 18 of 19 shots. The final few minutes include numerous "calling cards" left by the two sides, including a brief fight between Paul Coffey and Flyers enforcer Craig Berube in which linesmen Kevin Collins and Randy Minton as well Pittsburgh's Randy Hillier quickly interceded to prevent what likely would have been a lopsided bout.
- 2009: The visiting Flyers shut out the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-0, on a 28-save performance by Martin Biron to avoid playoff elimination and send the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals back to Philadelphia for Game Six. Arron Asham, Claude Giroux and Mike Knuble score for Philly, while defenseman Matt Carle assists on a pair of third-period goals.
- 2013: In a 5-2 regular season home win over the Boston Bruins, the fifth goal of Simon Gagne's second stint as Flyers -- and 264th regular season goal of his 702 games with the club -- proves to be his final one in the orange and black.
April 23: Flyers Birthdays
- Prolific scoring right winger Reggie Leach was born in Riverton, Manitoba on April 23, 1950.
- Drafted by the Flyers in the second round (22nd overall) of the 1984 NHL Draft, defenseman Greg Smyth was born April 23, 1966 in Oakville, Ontario.