Trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 late in the third period of Game 6 of a classic 2004 Eastern Conference Finals series, the Philadelphia Flyers faced playoff elimination. Enter Flyers captain Keith Primeau.
Enjoying a spectacular playoff run marked by one clutch goal or assist after another, Primeau virtually willed the Flyers to tie the game. First, he won a puck battle in the corner and got the puck out to defenseman Mattias Timander at the left point. Collecting the loose rebound of Timander's shot near the left post, Primeau quickly wheeled around behind the net and stuffed the puck home past goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to knot the game at 18:11. The orange-clad home crowd went bonkers.
Overtime was grueling and tense. Finally, with time ticking down under two minutes, Jeremy Roenick won a battle (while down on his knees) behind the net and shoveled the puck to Simon Gagne in the right corner. Gagne then sent the puck back around behind the net to Primeau, who skated out front. With Roenick moving toward the left slot, Primeau sent a pass to Roenick. With a defender in close proximity, Roenick spotted Gagne getting open near the right post. An accurate Roenick pass and a quick finish by Gagne later at the 18:18 mark, and the Flyers had a 5-4 win.
Both Primeau and Gagne scored twice in the game. Each player tallied in the first period to erased an early 1-0 deficit. Sami Kapanen notched a second-period goal for Philly. However, a pair of goals by Vincent Lecavalier and Ruslan Fedotenko provided Tampa with the 4-3 lead they took into the latter stages of the third period.
Tampa Bay went on to win Game 7 on home ice by a 2-1 score. Primeau, who by now was primarily used as a shutdown defensive center and had tallied just 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 54 games during the regular season, finished his magical postseason run with 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 18 games.
May 20 in Flyers History:
1974: A crowd estimated at over two million people turned out on Broad Street for a raucous victory parade to celebrate the Philadelphia Flyers first Stanley Cup championship.
1975: Game 3 of the 1975 Stanley Cup Final was destined to be forever known as "the fog game". Sweltering temperatures caused a thick blanket of fog to form in Buffalo's famed Aud, and the game the Flyers and Sabres played in the conditions was appropriately bizarre. Several times, play was halted while players were instructed to skate around to dissipate some of the fog and improve visibility enough to play hockey. At one juncture, a bat flew down from the Aud rafters. The Sabres' Jim Lorentz knocked it out of the air near the faceoff circle, where the bat fell dead. Flyers center Rick MacLeish retrieved it with his bare hand and deposited it at the scorer's table, shrugging off a warning by teammate Joe Watson that the animal could have carried rabies by asking "what are rabies?" Ultimately, the Sabres won the game in overtime, 5-4, to narrow the Flyers lead in the series after Philly prevailed in Games 1 and 2 at the Spectrum.
1997: Flyers captain Eric Lindros racked up a hat trick as the team defeated the New York Rangers, 6-3, at Madison Square Garden to grab a two games to one lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. On the final goal, an empty netter, Lindros virtually dragged a desperate Rangers captain Mark Messier (Lindros' childhood hockey idol) across his back as Messier tried in vain to stop the "E Train" from icing the game for Philadelphia. Petr Svoboda, Rod Brind'Amour and Trent Klatt also scored for Philadelphia.
May 20: Flyers Birthday
The late Dave Hoyda, one of the top pound-for-pound fighters of his era, was born May 20, 1957.