The Pittsburgh Penguins averted a sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals but were still in deep trouble in the series as the scene shifted back to the CoreStates Center in Philadelphia for Game 5.
The Flyers did not disappoint, skating to a 6-3 victory to close out the series.
Flyers captain Eric Lindros won the opening faceoff, taking a pass from Mikael Renberg as the Legion of Doom steamed into the Pittsburgh end. Lindros fired a shot on Ken Wregget (39 saves on 45 shots). Wregget, who had been under siege the entire series, made the initial save but Lindros quickly followed up his own rebound to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead just 14 seconds into the game.
The crowd of 20,009 Flyers partisans roared in celebration. Elation turned to concern when Pittsburgh scored goals on two of its first three shots on tallies by Mario Lemieux (power play) and Kevin Hatcher. When Petr Svoboda received a slashing minor at 16:50, the Flyers found themselves in early trouble.
Enter Rod Brind'Amour to give the Flyers a huge lift. A two-way standout during his Flyers Hall of Fame career, Brind'Amour won a race to counterattack shorthanded to score an unassisted goal than bounced in off Penguins' defenseman Jason Woolley at 17:38. Just 54 seconds later, at 18:32, he did it again as he tallied on a backhander that jumped up off the stick of Pittsburgh defenseman Fredrik Olausson.
The ovation after the Lindros goal paled in comparison to the cacophony when Brind'Amour tallied his back-to-back shorthanded goals. The raucous standing ovation continued ever after play resumed and the disheartened Penguins finished their power play now trailing in the game.
Ron Francis briefly tied the game at 3-3 early in the second period, but John LeClair and Trent Klatt put the Flyers ahead to stay. Vaclav Prospal iced the series with an empty net goal at 19:55 of the third period. Philly outshot Pittsburgh by a 45-18 margin for the game. Winning goaltender Garth Snow made 15 saves.
To honor the retiring Lemieux, Flyers fans gave him a standing ovation and chanted "Mar-i-o! Mar-i-o!" and the media selected the legendary player by naming him the first and only star of the game.
In the handshake line, Lemieux symbolically passed the torch to Lindros of being the NHL's most dominant player. Lemieux said, "Now's the time. Go out and win this year."
The Flyers would go on to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
April 26: Through the Years
- 1977: The Stanley Cup Semifinals open with the Flyers dropping back-to-back overtime heartbreakers to the Boston Bruins. Game Two sees the Flyers suffer a 5-4 double-overtime loss at the Spectrum as Gerry Cheevers (43 saves) eventually outduels Flyers goaltender Wayne Stephenson (28 saves). The Flyers trail early but push back for goals by Andre "Moose" Dupont, Orest Kindrachuk, Paul Holmgren and, later, Gary Dornhoefer. Terry O'Reilly wins the game for Boston at 10:07 of the second overtime.
- 1987: The Flyers open up a commanding three games to one lead in their second-round playoff series with the New York Islanders, grabbing a 6-4 win on Long Island in Game Four. Two goals and an assist by Tim Kerr lead the way offensively. Depth players Al Hill and Tim Tookey also score for the Flyers before Rick Tocchet adds a late-game empty net goal.
- 2006: It's the Peter Forsberg show in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Buffalo Sabres. With the Flyers trialing two games to zero in the series, Forsberg scores twice in the second period and sets up a Simon Gagne empty net goal late in regulation to seal a 4-2 win. Forsberg will top himself with an even more dominant performance in Game Four.
- 2008: A 34-save performance by Martin Biron keys a 4-2 road win as the Flyers even up their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Montreal Canadiens at one game apiece. Offensively, R.J. Umberger leads the way with two goals, while Jeff Carter and Danny Briere score once apiece.
2011: The Flyers close out their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Buffalo Sabres with a 5-2 blowout win in Game 7 is more lopsided than the final score suggests. Danny Briere (one goal, one assist) paces the Flyers offensively. Most memorably, Briere torments his friend and former teammate Ryan Miller with a pat on the head after scoring his goal