Selected by The Hockey News as the preseason favorite to win the Stanley Cup, the 2009-10 Philadelphia Flyers had a topsy turvy season filled with injuries, streaky play and an in-season coaching change from John Stevens to Peter Laviolette. After winning a final-day shootout win over the New York Rangers to get into the playoffs, however, the Flyers caught fire in the postseason.
On May 24, 2010, the Flyers closed out the Eastern Conference Final with a 4-2 win at the Wells Fargo Center in Game 5 against the Montreal Canadiens. With the victory, the Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the eighth time in franchise history.
After spotting the Habs a 1-0 lead in the opening minute of the first period, the Flyers settled down. A shorthanded goal by Mike Richards at the 4:25 mark tied the game. On the play, Richards raced over the middle for a loose puck. Challenged by a defender and met by desperately sliding Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak venturing far out of his net, Richards dived headfirst and poked the puck past Halak toward the net. Popping quickly back up to his feet, the Flyers' captain claimed the puck near the left side of the crease and slid a backhander into the now-vacant cage.
The usually stoic Richards whooped in glee as he was mobbed by teammates and the crowd went berserk.
The 1-1 tie held until early in the second period, when Arron Asham and Jeff Carter scored goals spaced 84 seconds apart and the Flyers grabbed a 3-1 advantage.
In the third period, the Habs threw everything they had at the Flyers. Scott Gomez cut the gap to 3-2 with 13:07 remaining. Finally, with 23 ticks remaining on the clock, Carter iced the game and series with an empty netter to restore a two-goal lead at 4-2. Michael Leighton, who recorded three shutouts earlier in the series, finished with 25 saves on 27 shots.
May 24 in Flyers History:
1974: The just-crowned Stanley Cup champion Flyers got even stronger as they prepared to defend their crown. The team acquired young sniper Reggie Leach (a friend and linemate of Bob Clarke from their junior hockey days together with the Flin Flon Bombers) from the California Seals. The deal came at the price of trading well-regarded young forward Al MacAdam, who went on to a solid NHL career in his own right, as well as former 1st round pick Larry Wright (selected 8th overall in the 1971 NHL Draft) and the Flyers 1974 first-round pick (Ron Chipperfield). Leach goes on to become one of the most prolific goal scorers in Flyers franchise history and a member of the Flyers' Hall of Fame.
1980: In one of the most heartbreaking and controversial games in Flyers' franchise history, the host New York Islanders skate to a 5-4 overtime win in Game 6 to end the 1980 Stanley Cup Final. The result was largely influenced by two highly disputed plays in the first period: a Denis Potvin goal that appeared to have been knocked in with a high stick and, even more infamously, a blatant offside missed by veteran linesman Leon Stickle that resulted moments later in a Duane Sutter goal that temporarily put the Islanders ahead, 2-1. A goal by Bobby Nystrom at 7:11 of overtime ended the game and series. New York won its first of four straight Stanley Cup championships.
1987: The Edmonton Oilers took a three games to one lead over the Flyers in the 1987 Stanley Cup Final with a 4-1 win at the Spectrum in Game 4. Brad McCrimmon's mid second period power play goal stood as the lone Flyers tally, temporarily cutting a 2-0 deficit to a single score. Ron Hextall stopped 25 of 29 shots in a losing cause.
1995: On the way to sweeping the defending Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Flyers grabbed a three games to zero lead in the series with a 5-2 win at Madison Garden in Game 3. Two goals by Kevin Dineen and one apiece by Mikael Renberg, Rod Brind'Amour and Kevin Haller supplied the offensive support for winning goaltender Ron Hextall (32 saves on 34 shots). Unlike Games 1 and 2, which saw the Flyers trail early and play successful comeback hockey, this time the Flyers built a comfortable 4-0 lead by 10:23 of the second period.
2000: The New Jersey Devils force a seventh and deciding game in the 2000 Eastern Conference Final with a 2-1 win over Philly at the Meadowlands. Making his return from a prolonged concussion-related absence, Eric Lindros tallied the lone Flyers goal in the final half-minute of the third period. Earlier, Lindros scored a would-be goal that crossed the goal line a split second after the expiration of the second period and, thus, did not count. Rookie goaltending standout Brian Boucher stopped 24 of 26 shots in a losing cause.
MAY 24: Flyers Birthdays
Winner of the 1984-85 Vezina Trophy and a Hart Trophy finalist, the late Pelle Lindbergh was born May 24, 1959.
A goaltender for the Flyers and a scout for the organization after a heart attack forced his premature retirement, the late Bruce Gamble was born May 24, 1938.