The Philadelphia Flyers tore through the 1997 Eastern Conference playoffs. The team needed just five games apiece to dispatch the Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres and star-laden but aging New York Rangers to win the Prince of Wales Trophy and advance to the seventh Stanley Cup Final berth in franchise history.
In Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Rangers, the scene shifted back to Philadelphia's brand new Wells Fargo Center (then called CoreStates Center) after the Flyers prevailed in hard-fought matches in Games Three and Four at Madison Square Garden.
Flyers captain Eric Lindros brought the home crowd to its feet as he opened the scoring with an early power play goal. The Philly fans were briefly silenced by back-to-back Rangers power play goals (Alexander Karpovtsev and Esa Tikkanen) on both sides of a 5-on-3 New York power play. However, the atmosphere was electric again as John LeClair knotted the game on a power play goal and Rod Brind'Amour tallied at even strength to put the Flyers ahead before the first intermission.
Philadelphia dominated a scoreless second period, holding the Rangers to just two shots on goal but the Flyers could not extend their lead against Mike Richter (who finished with 25 saves). Finally, at 6:43 of the third period, Brind'Amour notched his second tally of the game as he provided some insurance with a 4-2 lead.
That was all Ron Hextall needed. He turned away all eight shots he saw in the final period. Ten years after a rookie Hextall brought the Flyers within a narrow Game 7 defeat of winning the Stanley Cup, the Flyers were headed back to the Final.
May 25 in Flyers History
1973: In a minor league trade with the San Diego Gulls of the old Western Hockey League, the Flyers organization acquired depth forward Bruce Cowick. In exchange, the Flyers transferred Bob Currier, Jim Stanfield, Tom Trevelyan and Bob Hulburst to San Diego.
1975: After the Philadelphia Flyers dropped Games Three and Four of the 1975 Stanley Cup Final at the Aud in Buffalo, the series pitting the defending Stanley Cup champions against the Sabres was tied at two games apiece. The scene shifted back to the Spectrum for Game Five, with control of the series at stake. Within 12:50 from the opening face off, the Flyers opened a commanding 3-0 lead as Dave "the Hammer" Schultz and two players who had been injured during the playoffs the previous year - Bob "the Hound" Kelly and Gary Dornhoefer - put picks past Buffalo netminder Gerry Desjardins. In the second period, Philly's lead grew to an insurmountable 5-0 advantage as a Reggie Leach power play and Schultz's second goal of the game made the rest of the game a virtual formality before it even reached the midway point of regulation. Bernie Parent flirted with a shutout for the first 54 minutes of the game before Don Luce put the Sabres on the scoreboard. Parent finished with 23 saves. His fourth shutout of the 1975 playoffs would have to wait one more game, as the series moved back to Buffalo for Game Six.
1985: The Flyers suffer a 4-3 road loss to the Edmonton Oilers to fall behind, two games to one, in the 1985 Stanley Cup Final. A first period hat trick by Wayne Gretzky along with a second-period assist was too much to overcome. Derrick Smith scored in a losing cause for the Flyers, along with Mark Howe and Brian Propp.
May 25: Flyers Birthdays
Longtime New York Rangers tough guy Nick Fotiu, who briefly played for the Flyers late in his career, was born May 25, 1952.
Longtime NHL defenseman Ric Nattress, who spent the 1992-93 season with the Flyers, was born May 25, 1962.
Speedy depth forward Jon Kalinski was born May 25, 1987.