The Philadelphia Flyers, winners of the Atlantic Division championship during the abbreviated 1994-95 regular season, truly signified their re-emergence as Stanley Cup contenders in the playoffs. They did emphatically, taking out the Buffalo Sabres in five games in the first round and then sweeping the defending Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers in the conference semifinals.
In Game Four of the New York series, the Flyers had to go into hostile territory to wrap up series. The tense Madison Square Garden crowd exhorted the Rangers to extend the series but grew quiet as first period even strength and power play goals by defenseman Karl Dykhuis - playing arguably the best hockey of his entire NHL career during this series - portended impending doom as the Flyers built a 2-0 lead.
The Legion of Doom line furthered the Rangers' suffering. Scoring his third goal of the series, Mikael Renberg tallied to build a 3-0 lead as game-long dominance by his line paid off with a goal at the 12:29 mark of the second period. Less than two minutes later, Rod Brind'Amour started a sequence that ended with Anatoli Semenov beating Glen Healey to build an insurmountable 4-0 lead.
The Rangers finally got a puck past Ron Hextall (31 saves) in the final minute of the second period, but there was to be no third period miracle for the Blueshirts. The Flyers prevailed, 4-1, and advanced to the Conference Final for the first time since 1989.
Although the Flyers ultimately lost a hard-fought six-game series with the eventual Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils, it was clear that, after a five-year playoff drought, the Flyers were going to be in the thick of the Stanley Cup hunt for many years to come.
May 26 in Flyers History:
1987: Trailing the Stanley Cup Final three games to one, the Flyers begin a near-miraculous push back in the series with a comeback 4-3 road win over the Edmonton Oilers in Game Five of the series. After trailing by scores of 2-0 and 3-1, the Flyers scored three unanswered goals, capped off by Rick Tocchet's second tally of the game to put the Flyers ahead to stay with 14:34 left in regulation. Doug Crossman and Pelle Eklund (power play) notched second period goals to draw the Flyers even in the game before intermission. Ron Hextall made 31 saves, including eight in the third period, to nail down the win.
2000: After once leading the Eastern Conference Finals three games to one, the Flyers suffer a heartbreaking 2-1 loss at home in Game 7 against the New Jersey Devils. A horrifying play in the first period - an open ice hit by Scott Stevens on Eric Lindros - leaves Lindros concussed and laying in a heap on the ice. Rick Tocchet's second period power play goal and a 16-save effort by Brian Boucher are rendered null by a pair of Patrik Elias goals, including the series winner with 2:32 remaining in the third period. The Flyers fired 27 shots on Martin Brodeur but generated only the Tocchet tally.
2009: 1980s era fan favorite Peter Zezel passed away at age 44 after battling hemolytic anemia, a rare blood disorder.
May 26: Flyers birthday
Agitating forward P.J. Stock was born May 26, 1975.