One of the most dramatic finishes in the regular season history of the Philadelphia Flyers took place on December 5, 2002, when the team defeated the New York Rangers 3-2 on an overtime penalty shot goal by Michal Handzus at 4:23.
Referee Kevin Pollock awarded Handzus a penalty shot after being hooked on the arm during a partial breakaway by Rangers' defenseman Tom Poti after Handzus forced a turnover near the offensive blueline. Moving in a straight line on Rangers' goaltender Dan Blackburn, Handzus suddenly cut to his right, pulled the puck to the backhand and deftly flipped the puck over the goalie's pads.
Occurring several years before the NHL's adaptation of the shootout in 2005, Handzus' goal was the first in franchise history to directly conclude a game under penalty shot or similar conditions. In fact, he was only the second player in NHL history to accomplish the feat. The first was Nashville Predators forward David Legwand, who beat the Rangers on Dec. 23, 2000, at Madison Square Garden with an overtime penalty shot goal against Kirk McLean.
Mark Recchi (power play goal, assist) and Jeremy Roenick tallied in regulation for the Rangers. Booed every time he touched the puck throughout the game, New York Rangers center Eric Lindros scored the tying goal to erase Philadelphia's lead. Roman Cechmanek eventually earned a 24-save win, including two crucial saves in overtime.
Video: What happened on December 5th, 2002 in Flyers history
December 5: Through the Years
- 1971: Doug Favell notched a 27-save shutout and Gary Dornhoefer had a goal and an assist as the Flyers blanked the California Golden Seals at the Spectrum, 3-0. Larry Keenan and Jim Johnson opened the scoring with first-period power play goals for Philadelphia.
- 1974: Bernie Parent and Tony Esposito took turns making spectacular saves before the Flyers prevailed in a hard-fought 3-2 game at the Spectrum. Jimmy Watson, Rick MacLeish and Reggie Leach scored for the Flyers, while Dave "the Hammer" Schultz had a memorable second-period fight with Chicago's Phil Russell.
- 1976: Rick MacLeish scored a hat trick and linemates Bobby Clarke (two goals, one assist) and Bill Barber (one goal, one assist) enjoyed multi-point games as the Fyers cruised to a 6-2 wins over the visiting Cleveland Barons. The game featured four fights, including bouts between MacLeish and Greg Smith and a pair of fights involving Mel Bridgman.
- 1981: The Flyers skated off with a 5-2 road win in a brawl-filled tilt with the Detroit Red Wings. Ken "the Rat" Linseman lit the fuse with a first period sucker punch on Detroit's Greg Woods and later went on the rack up a power play goal and two assists much to the opponent's dismay. Bill Barber (one goal, one assist) and Brian Propp (two assists) also had multi-point efforts, while T.J. Gorence, Bobby Clarke (shorthanded goal) and Bob Hoffmeyer also tallied for the Flyers. The game featured a line brawl at 17:35 of the second period and another multi-player tussle in the final seven seconds the game after John Barrett speared Philadelphia's Ron Flockhart, Over the course of the game, Paul Holmgren racked up 33 minutes worth of penalties -- a fighting major, two separate 10-minute misconducts at 3:19 and 15:24 of the second period, a roughing minor, a high sticking minor, a boarding minor and a first-period hooking minor -- and was still around to assist on a Linseman goal in the third period.
- 1997: After the Flyers underwent some recent line changes, including the temporary splitting of Eric Lindros and John LeClair, the changes paid dividends in a 4-4 tie with the New York Rangers. LeClair rolled to his 21st and 22nd goals of the season, with new linemates Chris Gratton and Dainius Zubrus chipping in one point apiece. The line of goal-scorer Rod Brind'Amour, along with Lindros and Trent Klatt also got on the board, whle Vaclav Prospal chipped in a power play goal. Unfortunately, the Flyers were unable to hold a 4-1 lead and ended up settling for a tie. Brian Leetch scored a pair for the Rangers.
- 1998: A pair of PPGs by Rod Brind'Amour powered the Flyers to a 2-1 home win against the Washington Capitals. Ron Hextall (22 saves) provided shutout goaltending for 50-plus minutes before Brian Bellows' power play goal cut Washington's deficit in half. The game also featured a first-period fight between the Caps' Craig Berube and Flyers' defenseman Luke Richardson.
- 2003: Former Coyotes goaltender Robert Esche outdueled his old goal and won a head-to-head matchup against two-stint Flyer Sean Burke (whom the Flyers reacquired later this season). Defenseman Jim Vandermeer and forwards Tony Amonte and John LeClair scored for Philly.
- 2005: In a trade the organization would later deeply regret but at the time was considered a fairly minor swap of struggling young players in need of a fresh start, the Flyers swapped Patrick Sharp to the Chicago Blackhawks for Matt Ellison. The deal also saw Eric Meloche head to Chicago while the Flyers obtained a 2006 third-round pick. The draft pick was subsequently traded to the Montreal Canadiens, who used it to select forward Ryan White (himself later a Flyer). Ellison dressed in seven games for the Flyers over parts of two seasons, primarily playing for the AHL's Philadelphia Phantoms during his time in the organization. Sharp went on a few years later to become an all-star caliber player in Chicago.
- 2010: Trailing 2-1 midway through the third period, the Flyers rallied for a pair of goals to secure a 3-2 regulation road win against the New York Islanders. Andreas Nodl (power play) tied the game before Danny Briere notched the game-winner with 5:44 remaining in the third period. Briere's linemates Ville Leino and Scott Hartnell assisted on the final goal. Matt Carle scored a first period goal to open the scoring. Sergei Bobrovsky (28 saves) earned the win.
December 5: Alumni Birthday
- One of the speediest defensemen in Flyers franchise history, Kevin Haller was born in Trochu, Alberta on December 5, 1970.