-- It was only four days ago Mike Richards
said his team got a good whipping from the Montreal Canadiens
Sparked by his harsh synopsis, the Philadelphia Flyers
were a different team in Game 5 and as a result are going to the Stanley Cup Final.
"He's our captain, our leader, we gave him a long-term contract, we love him, we know what he can do and, in a game like this, he showed what he could do," Flyers Chairman Ed Snider told NHL.com.
At the end of his 36-shift performance in Game 5, Richards posed for a picture with the Prince of Wales Trophy presented to him by Deputy NHL Commissioner Bill Daly following the Flyers' series-clinching, 4-2 Game 5 triumph over the Canadiens.
He then defied superstition, grabbed the trophy and skated off to the dressing room.
"It was actually a little bit of a debate on the ice," Richards said. "I don't know if you'd seen, but I thought a little about it last night, and my first instinct was to grab it. Obviously, it took us a lot to get here, and (it's) not the trophy that we want, but we haven't done anything conventional all year, especially in these playoffs. So might as well go against the grain one more time."
"Was I happy Ritchie grabbed the trophy?" asked Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn
. "Absolutely! I would have done the same thing."
With the Flyers trailing by a goal in the first period Monday night, Richards set the tone before a boisterous home crowd.
Richards rewarded them when he pulled the Flyers into a 1-1 tie on Philadelphia's first shorthanded goal of the playoffs 4:25 into the first. It set the tone for the game and sparked a string of three unanswered goals.
With defenseman Kimmo Timonen
off for roughing, Claude Giroux
cleared the zone, but Richards pursued the puck as it floated into the Montreal zone. Canadiens defenseman Roman Hamrlik
was slow to the puck, forcing goalie Jaroslav Halak
to come charging out to try to make a play.
All three players reached the puck simultaneously at the top of the right circle and collided. The puck bounced away and trickled closer to the goal before Richards regained his footing, corralled the puck and deposited it into the net for his first point in three games and sixth goal of the playoffs.
Richards admitted he was preparing to head off the ice on a line change at the time of his shorthanded goal.
"I was going to go off, and then the puck just took a soft bounce and I thought I could get there," he said. "I’d seen Halak kind of hesitate a little bit to come out. I just tried to poke it by him, got up, and the puck was actually just sitting there ready for him to take. So I just wanted to avoid the goalie stick that was laying there and I just put it in."
"We came out flat and if he doesn't do a play like that … it got the guys fired up and it was at the end of a PK," said Giroux, who played another inspired game. "He went down and drove on the puck and got an open net, so it was huge."
Flyers forward Ian Laperriere
, who was no slouch himself in his second game back from a brain contusion, felt Richards' performance ignited the entire building.
"He's an unbelievable hockey player," Laperriere said. "You got good hockey players and players with leadership in them and Ritchie's got it. It's not something you can work on in the summer. It's something you have, and Ritchie's got it."
Richards logged 22:49 minutes, including 4:08 on the penalty-kill, took six shots and notched three points and a plus-3 rating.
"He's our captain, our leader, we gave him a long-term contract, we love him, we know what he can do and, in a game like this, he showed what he could do."
-- Flyers Chairman Ed Snider
Richards also played a part on the eventual game-winning goal by Jeff Carter
when he found Carter with a one-touch pass from behind the net at the 4:31 mark of the second. Carter finished for a 3-1 Flyers advantage. The goal came just 1:24 after Arron Asham
had connected to give the home team their first lead of the game.
The win marked the first time in the series that the team scoring first would lose the game. Richards notched his third point of the game on Carter's second goal of the contest, into an empty net with 22.1 seconds remaining.
It was another tremendous effort -- with Halak pulled for an extra attacker, Richards battled the puck away from Tomas Plekanec
at the side of the cage before backhanding a pass to Carter for the goal that sent the Flyers' fans into a state of euphoria.
Now, it's on to Chicago to face the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final.
"I don't consider us underdogs; I know what this group is capable of, and how they're capable of playing," Richards said. "Our year wasn't the same as theirs with the whirlwind and the ups and downs and the roller coaster that we went on this year.
But we have similar teams, a lot of depth, good defense, goaltending that we trust. If you look on paper, I think it's a similar lineup on both sides."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale