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NHL Centennial

Oral history of Flyers-Penguins 5OT classic

Philadelphia won longest game in modern NHL history May 4, 2000

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The puck dropped at 7:38 p.m. ET at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh on May 4, 2000, for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

When the final horn sounded more than seven hours later in the fifth overtime, history had been made. The Flyers' 2-1 victory was the longest game in the modern era of the NHL (since 1943-44), with 92:01 of overtime. It's the third-longest NHL game overall, behind a 1936 NHL Semifinal game between the Montreal Maroons and Detroit Red Wings (116:30 of overtime), and a 1933 NHL Semifinal game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins (104:46).

In looking back at this historic game, NHL.com talked to some of the people who took part in it.

Video: 2000 Round 2, Gm4: Primeau scores in 5th OT

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The Penguins, the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, won the first two games against the top-seeded Flyers in Philadelphia. But the Flyers won Game 3 in Pittsburgh on a goal by defenseman Andy Delmore at 11:01 of overtime.

 

Ron Tugnutt, Penguins goalie: We really felt we were in a good position to really take a stranglehold on the series. At that time we had surprised some people already. We had a late surge in the regular season and took off in the playoffs and were playing some good hockey. Philadelphia was always a nemesis of our team in the past. We didn't take them lightly but we felt we were in a good position.

Brian Boucher, Flyers goalie: Winning Game 3 gave us a lot of energy going into Game 4. When the night starts no one knows how it's going to play out.

 

It didn't start well for the Flyers as Alex Kovalev scored 2:22 into the game.

 

Boucher: Not the start you're looking for.

Tugnutt: Whoever gets the first goal has a chance of winning like 65, 70 percent. It's a real boost to your team if you can get the lead.

Keith Primeau, Flyers forward: We didn't believe that we matched up to Pittsburgh's skill but we certainly felt with our character we had the ability to win games.

 

The Penguins led 1-0 entering the third period. Penguins forward Martin Straka was called for slashing at 4:43. On the ensuing faceoff Flyers center Daymond Langkow beat Penguins center Jan Hrdina on a faceoff. The puck went out to Flyers defenseman Eric Desjardins, whose shot deflected off Flyers forward John LeClair and past Tugnutt. The goal call stood after a video review.

 

John LeClair, Flyers forward: Eric Desjardins took the shot and it got away from him a little bit, [and I] think it ended up going up high and it went off my helmet. I put my arms up to protect myself.

Boucher: Typically when pucks are going high and end up low in the net, it had to be hit by a stick. Certainly [there were] some tough moments there waiting to see what the call was going to be. Tugnutt was in a groove to that point. We'd had a tough time getting one by him.

Rob Shick, referee: Back in those days we didn't have much of a review system. The [officials] on the ice, we would make the call in real time. We made our call in real time and then upstairs in the replay booth you had the series supervisor along with the video replay guy who was in the building. They would be able to look at it and overturn the call if they felt it was worthy to overturn.

Keith Jones, Flyers forward: I know I wasn't concerned on whether or not it was going to count. I had already counted it.

Tugnutt: I don't remember the goal at all.

 

The game went to overtime tied 1-1. It nearly ended on the first shift when LeClair stole the puck from Tugnutt behind the Penguins goal and passed into the slot to Langkow, who hit the crossbar 31 seconds into overtime.

 

LeClair: [A] lot of times there are chances because guys are a little more energized by playing in overtime. Having a chance like that early in overtime, it's disappointing it didn't go in but you just move forward and get ready for the next chance you're going to get.

Simon Gagne, Flyers forward: I broke my finger [in Game 3]. I couldn't squeeze my stick. We asked the team doctor to freeze my finger before the game, but [that made it] too numb. I couldn't feel my hand, so I couldn't feel my stick. I [played] maybe one or two shifts in the first [period], went back into the locker room, didn't play the second, didn't play the third. We went to overtime and the numbness started to go away. I said it's good, I can go back and play. I put back my skates, played the overtime.

Shick: As an official you always hope [overtime is] quick and clean. The quicker, the cleaner, the better off it is.

Jones: I expected it to end every time the puck was dropped and play began. That was the way it always felt in overtime and it was no different until the third overtime.

 

As the overtimes went on, things went a bit sideways for a few of the players.

 

LeClair: After the third overtime … our locker room became a lot more loose. It was pretty comical in the locker room between guys searching for food, some guys getting IVs. It was a little bit of survival mode.

Primeau: Usually on the road the team orders pizza for the locker room. There's pizza for the guys, power gels, power bars, they were really popular. The trunk of those was gone, the pizza was gone. Trainers are going up to concession stands to see if there's anything there. [The] coaches' popcorn was eaten.

Michal Rozsival, Penguins defenseman: I remember we had some pizza ordered. It was strange, never seen anything like that before. The whole locker room smelled like a pizza. We had pizza and some power bars, and tried to do all we could to keep it going and get some energy.

Shick: We had the standby ref order pizza after I think it was the second or third [overtime] because we didn't even know if we could get anything to eat after the game. In those days the teams didn't really supply us with anything to eat. Back then we got nothing. We were lucky to get a couple rolls of tape. The problem is we had one of our standbys who's probably the guy with the biggest appetite on our staff and he ate three-quarters of our pizza.

Boucher: The fourth overtime is when things started to come unglued a little bit in the locker room. We went through all the pizza that was waiting for us, that was gone. We had gone through all the power bars, all the granola bars, all the power gels. There were guys like Keith Jones and Craig Berube, they were tapped out. Those guys are real funny guys. Jonesy came in and was like, "Somebody end this thing please." He was done. He was playing on one leg.

LeClair: [Jones] had a couple shifts where he went I think about 5 feet from the bench and turned around and jumped off. I noticed that because I was changing with him. I wanted to push him back out there because I needed more rest.

Jones: That's a fact. I jumped over the boards, took a couple steps, stopped, went back toward our end, got midway between the red line and blue line and said "Change" and climbed back over the bench.

Tugnutt: I remember there was a play where the puck was in the corner coming toward the net and I was in the process of thinking I'm going to cover this puck and I more or less fell down up against the post and it almost went off me and in. I was like, "I've got to wake up here." I went to cover and I just literally fell down.

Rozsival: I just remember being on the bench and being tired and just thinking this is never going to end.

Jones: I remember being all over [Penguins forward Jaromir] Jagr every shift. Those were the days you could just lean on a guy, hook him, hold him, just bother him all night. I remember telling him, "Jags, it's over, you don't need this. Look at all the things you've done in your career."

Tugnutt: The third overtime, Jagr said to Kovalev, "Kovy, I've had enough, you could have finished this a long time ago. Just go do it, go get it done, just finish it," or something like that. … I'm looking and say, "Jags, you're pretty good too. If you want to finish it feel free. Either one of you can do it, I really don't care, but you can do it anytime now."

Shick: I know as it went on into the fourth overtime everybody was kind of quiet. You'd look up in the stands and some people were sleeping. On the ice it was like, we just went from yelling and screaming and cheering and trash-talking to everyone [being] kind of quiet and trying to conserve their energy. They're waiting for their opportunities.

Rozsival: I remember I was looking in the stands and there were kids sleeping, some people left. It was weird.

Boucher: At the start of the fifth overtime I went to scrape my crease and my hips started to really seize up, [I] started to deal with some cramping. I went to do my normal stretching routine before the period starts, and if I stretched one area then another area cramped up. So when I tried to stretch out that cramp than another area would cramp up. So I said forget it, I'm not stretching. At that point I was pretty close to done. It needed to end pretty soon or there could have been some serious cramping that was going to take place.

Tugnutt: I remember going to the bench at one point, there was a penalty, and I was looking at [backup goalie] Peter Skudra, and I was thinking, "You might be a better option out here right now than me." I was starting to fall in and out a little bit. To say I was foggy would be an understatement. … You ever have that feeling when you're driving and you don't remember you're driving, and next thing you know you come to a little bit and it's like, did I just drive 10 miles and not know it? Kind of like that.

Rozsival: Everybody was pretty tired but at the same time just trying to trick our minds and bodies into staying positive and staying energized and do everything we can.

 

Lost in a bit of the history is that while the Flyers were in Pittsburgh, center Eric Lindros, while working out on the ice during his recovery from a concussion that had kept him out since March 12, collided with minor-league forward Francis Lessard and sustained another concussion, his third of the season.

 

Jones: We remember hearing about it. But at that point it was us against the world. We were in our own world. We weren't even thinking about him. That was a group that because the expectations had been lowered in his absence, we really fed off of that. It's funny, in the playoffs what pressure can do to you and how it can work in your favor when you're not supposed to win. So by losing the first two games at home, Lindros not being available, we had been written off. That was a big rallying point and why we gutted it out the way we did.

 

Before the fifth overtime, ESPN broadcaster Steve Levy informed viewers "SportsCenter" was coming up after the game. "Yeah, sure, 'SportsCenter' is next," he said. "Whenever next is."

"Next" came at 12:01 of the fifth overtime when Primeau scored from the right circle.

 

Primeau: Two times earlier in the game [Penguins defenseman Darius] Kasparaitis, I had taken him wide. One time I circled around the net, once he met me at the far post. I was never able to get a step on him. Then in overtime I faked like I was going to go outside on him again, I cut back to the middle and got a shot off. Wasn't a great shot but at that point it was just put it on net.

Tugnutt: I had seen Primeau pick up some speed and cut across to my left side. He put a move on Kasparaitis where it looked like he was going outside and he cut inside, and as soon as he cut inside he had a quick-release shot from just inside the faceoff dot area. It beat me short side high.

Rozsival: I was Darius Kasparaitis' partner. I was standing in front of the net and just watching. Keith Primeau made an unbelievable move and unbelievable shot. I wasn't feeling great after that. I remember it exactly. I can see it pretty well in my mind where I was standing on the ice.

Boucher: He let go a great wrist shot. That back-bar sound, you know the sound. You hear a ping when it hits the crossbar. When it hits that back bar it's a clunk.

Jones: I'm behind Primeau and I stopped as soon as I crossed the red line and made a left to head toward the bench. I had my head down for a second and all of a sudden our bench is up and players are going onto the ice. I remember thinking we were going to get [a] too many men on the ice [penalty]. Unbeknownst to me the goal went in the net. I never saw it. I was staring directly at the bench when Primeau cut in and put it top shelf. … Rick Tocchet jumped on the ice and I told him, "Don't." Rick had me coming off and I said, "Don't steal my plus. That's mine."

Rozsival: All the effort you put in and all the energy spent for nothing. That was a bad feeling.

 

Tugnutt finished with 70 saves, and Boucher made 57. Flyers defenseman Dan McGillis led all players with 61:05 of ice time, and Philadelphia defenseman Luke Richardson played 59:51. Jagr led the Penguins at 59:08. Shick estimated he skated 14 or 15 miles. The Flyers won the series in six games, but the effects of this game lasted for all involved.

 

Tugnutt: I really believe whoever wins that game wins the series. Disappointing for us that we didn't win.

Boucher: It's pretty cool to be a part of NHL history and to do it in a team fashion like that. It's pretty awesome. I don't know the guys on the Penguins feel the same way. It's sweeter for us. The reason we won the series was because of that game there. … I can tell you that win propelled us.

LeClair: The Flyers did a nice thing, they gave us a plaque with the scoresheet on it, had everybody's minutes, the shots and all that stuff. That was a nice keepsake from the game.

Shick: My partner and I went to Toronto. We had the day off the next day … it was Toronto-New Jersey the next night and I was still really physically exhausted from the days before. … That one [in Toronto] it was quite a night. We had a lot of penalty minutes (32, including 20 in the third period). I just remember the game because it didn't go very well for us.

Rozsival: Just being part of it, it was my rookie season, definitely something I know I can talk about. … That I was part of one of the longest overtime games in modern history. It's pretty cool, it's pretty special.

Jones: It was an incredible series. All without Lindros. That's one of the biggest disappointments I have. We went on to take the 3-1 lead on the Devils [in the Eastern Conference Final] and blew that. Who knows if some of that had to do with the legs we left on the ice in that five-overtime game in the previous series.

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