Periodically playing games on consecutive nights on the road is a fact of life in the National Hockey League, as are stretches of three games in four nights. One of the toughest back-to-back sets that Terry Murray's Philadelphia Flyers played during the 1995-96 season came on January 3 and 4, 1996.
The first game, a 3-1 win over the then-lowly San Jose Sharks turned out to be more grueling than the score would suggest. The Flyers build a 3-0 lead on goals by Mikael Renberg, Yanick Dupre and John LeClair and then hung on the rest of the way despite getting outshot in all three periods (31-19 in all) and having to kill seven penalties (succeeding on six). Ron Hextall, the Flyers' goaltender, proved to be Philly's best player.
The next night figured to be even tougher.
The Flyers were in Denver to take on the Colorado Avalanche. That could be a daunting proposition on several levels. First of all, the Avalanche were a powerhouse team that would go on to win the 1995-96 Stanley Cup. Secondly, it was the Flyers' first-ever road game against the relocated Quebec Nordiques' franchise and the first experience for this generation of players of dealing with playing in the mile-high altitude. At least both teams were playing the second half of back-to-back games, so there was no on-paper fatigue disadvantage for either side.
For nearly 40 minutes, the ice was tilted. The Avalanche outshot the Flyers by an 18-4 margin in the first period and 16-6 in the second. The Avs built a 2-0 lead on goals by Joe Sakic and Adam Deadmarsh.
Finally, with four seconds left in the second period, Eric Lindros scored. The deficit suddenly seemed manageable with former Quebec goaltender Garth Snow playing one of his best games of the season for Philadelphia.
The Flyers turned the tables in the third period, outshooting Colorado by a 10-3 margin. With 4:03 left, Kjell Samuelsson beat goalie Stephane Fiset on a right point shot to tie the game at 2-2. Philadelphia had the only two shots of the scoreless overtime.
For the Flyers, even though they left Denver with one point rather than two, they had shown resiliency under trying conditions against a top-grade opponent.
January 4: Through the Years
- 1970: Goals by Andre Lacroix, Lew Morrison and Reg Fleming highlight a 3-1 Flyers home win over the Minnesota North Stars. Doug Favell makes 29 saves in a game that includes a second-period line brawl at the 8:49 mark.
- 1980: The Flyers' record unbeaten streak grows to 34 consecutive games (24-0-10) as they down the New York Rangers, 5-3, at Madison Square Garden. Pat Quinn's Flyers squad builds a 5-0 lead by the middle of the second period and then hangs on the rest of the way for a two-goal win. Mel Bridgman notches a shorthanded goal and an assist, while Philly also gets tallies from Rick MacLeish, Bill Barber, Brian Propp and Bob Dailey.
- 1981: Two goals by Hall of Fame inductee Bill Barber and a Gordie Howe Hat Trick by Paul Holmgren highlight an 8-1 road thrashing of the Washington Capitals. Other scorers include Brian Propp, Ken Linseman, Rick MacLeish,T.J. Gorence and team captain Mel Bridgman.
- 2014: The Flyers recover from deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 to skate off with a 5-3 road win over the Phoenix Coyotes. All three members of the Flyers' top line - Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Scott Hartnell - tally goals in the comeback win. Voracek's goal is the game-winner. Wayne Simmonds (power play) and Brayden Schenn also contribute tallies.
January 4: Flyers Birthday
- Diminutive but speedy and competitive defenseman Freddy Meyer was born on Jan. 4, 1981.