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On This Day in History: Flyers Pull Off Epic Comeback To Defeat the Boston Bruins in 7 Games After Being Down 0-3


The Philadelphia Flyers were 1 game away from completing an epic comeback after trailing 0-3 in the series, something that had only been done at the time by 2 teams in NHL history and were on the verge of something that hadn’t been done since 1975.

With how the series started, the Flyers looked dead in the water in the 2010 NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Bruins after they were taken down in each of the first 3 games of the series. Surely the Bruins had this one in the bag, right?

The Flyers limped into the postseason on the final day of the regular season after dispatching the New York Rangers in a shootout on home ice.

It was literally David vs Goliath because at the time the Rangers were historically the league’s best team in shootout, while the Flyers were the worst. After Daniel Brière and Claude Giroux beat Henrik Lundqvist, Brian Boucher was able to stop Olli Jokinen’s opportunity, sending the Flyers into the postseason to face off against the 7th-seeded New Jersey Devils.

Brian Boucher was spectacular in goal as he backstopped the Flyers to a 5-game series victory with a .940 SV% and only allowing 8 goals in the process. They took the first game before the Devils tied the series with a Game 2 victory. That was all she wrote for New Jersey as the Flyers finished off the series with a gentleman’s sweep as they moved onto the next round to face off against the 6th-seeded Boston Bruins, who pulled off an upset of their own against the 3rd-seeded Buffalo Sabres.

The Bruins took the first game in overtime off an emotional goal from Marc Savard to start the series off in style. The Flyers were trailing 2-0 and 3-1 before attempting a late third period comeback that was capped off by Daniel Brière’s 3rd of the postseason. Unfortunately, a slap-shot from the faceoff circle beat Boucher glove-side to give the Bruins the 1-0 series lead.

Game 2 was another close affair that the Flyers lost 3-2 after Milan Lucic’s late game winning goal with 2:57 left in regulation sent the Boston faithful home with a 2-0 lead. The Bruins then made easy work of the Flyers at the Wachovia Center, taking them down 4-1 en route to a convincing 3-0 series lead. The Flyers cinderella run looked to be coming to an abrupt end unless they could pull off a comeback of epic proportions, the likes that the NHL hasn’t seen since the 1975 New York Islanders.

The stage was set for Game 4 as Simon Gagné made his long-awaited return to the Flyers lineup and as fate would have it, Gagné scored the overtime game winner to send the Flyers back to Boston with a win on the board and avoiding the sweep. The Flyers held a 3-1 lead midway through the second period before the Bruins clawed their way back by the early stages of the third period. Ville Leino scored his first of the playoffs to give the Flyers a lead with 5:40 remaining before former Flyer, Mark Recchi, tied things up with 32 seconds left. Gagné finished things off with a deflection goal that was set up by a heads up pass from Matt Carle.

Once again with their backs against the wall, the Flyers took Game 5 within the confines of the TD Garden thanks in part to a shared shutout from Boucher and Michael Leighton after the former was forced out of the game with an injury. Ville Leino scored the opening goal in the first period and Scott Hartnell added his 1st of the playoffs, before Gagné scored 2 of his own as the Flyers kept the Bruins to 23 shots as the scene shifted back to Philadelphia for Game 6.

In what was probably the tightest and closest game of the series, the Flyers hung on for a close 2-1 victory on home ice, sending both teams back to the TD Garden for a game no one expected was going to happen. Mike Richards scored the game’s opening goal in the first period and Daniel Brière scored the eventual game-winning goal late in the 2nd period on the power play, before Milan Lucic broke the shutout with only 60 seconds remaining. Leighton was the unsung hero again, backstopping his team with a 30-save performance.

Game 7, May 14th, 2010. What could possibly go wrong? The Flyers should be carrying the momentum even if it was a road game, while the Bruins should be a little petrified for potentially being on the wrong side of history.

That wasn’t quite how the game started as the Bruins jumped to an early 3-0 lead, only 14 minutes into game. Michael Ryder and Milan Lucic scored 3 goals in a span of 8:43, sending the Bruins fans into a frenzy. Ryder scored on a rebound attempt that beat Leighton five-hole on the power play, Lucic’s first goal of the night was on a one-time back-door attempt on the power play, before he finished off a 3-on-2 opportunity on his own after the Flyers were a little too aggressive in the offensive zone.

Peter Laviolette took one of his patented timeouts to calm things down, to let Leighton know that this was still his game and that he wouldn’t be pulled, and to remember that they were only one goal away from turning the tides. With 2:48 remaining in the period, James van Riemsdyk scored his first of the playoffs after Mike Richards laid down the boom that freed the puck up to set up the late backbreaker of a goal. The puck took a funny bounce past Tuukka Rask but the Flyers were on the board.

2:49 into the second period, the Brière-Leino-Hartnell trio struck after Hartnell cut the deficit to 1. Brière set up Leino from behind, his spin-around attempt was stopped, before Hartnell deposited the rebound opportunity from the side of the net for this 2nd of the playoffs.

Then 5:50 later, Daniel Brière’s wrap around attempt deflected off a Bruins defender and got past Rask to tie the game with 11:21 remaining in the second period.

With 8:50 remaining in the third period, the Boston Bruins were flagged down for a too many men minor penalty, sending the Flyers on a late power play with the game hanging in the balance. Gagné was positioned on the far boards near the faceoff dot on Rask’s blocker side. He passed it to Leino who was stationed behind the net. The Finnish forward passed it to Richards who was on the opposite faceoff dot facing Rask’s glove side. With 21 seconds left on the man advantage, Richards took the shot with 3 Bruins and 2 Flyers in and around the crease. The shot was deflected and then recovered by Gagne – who made a bee line towards the slot after making the initial pass to Leino – before he ripped one past the blocker of Rask for his 4th goal in as many games since returning from injury.

The Bruins threw everything including the kitchen sink in the final minutes of the period but were not able to get another past Michael Leighton as the Flyers were able to cap off the amazing comeback and defeat the Bruins 4-3.

Not only were they down 0-3 in the series, but they were down 0-3 in the game itself and through a bit of resiliency, effort, and determination, they were able to battle through thick and thin and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

A play that cannot be forgotten was Claude Giroux’s time-wasting shift late in the third period that ate about 30 seconds off the clock as he pinned himself along the boards and protected the puck like his life depended on it. He corralled the puck behind the net with 2:11 left in the third period and kept it in his possession until there was only 1:45 left on the clock.

Daniel Brière led the way with 5 goals and 10 points in 7 games, including 3 goals and 3 assists in the final 4 games. Captain Mike Richards had 3 goals and 9 points, Ville Leino had 2 goals and 7 points, Chris Pronger and Matt Carle each had 6 points, and Simon Gagne had 4 goals and 5 points in 4 games as his return seemed to be the motivating push. Michael Leighton finished the series with a 2-0 record in 3 games, a .943 SV%, and only allowed 4 goals along the way. Dennis Wideman, Milan Lucic, and Patrice Bergeron paced the Bruins with 8, 7, and 6 points, respectively.

With the victory, the Flyers advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2nd time in 3 years, and defeated the Montreal Canadiens rather handily in 5 games.

Their Cinderella run pushed them to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1996-97 when they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings and just their 3rd trip since 1987. Unfortunately, Leighton’s magical run came to a screeching halt in the Finals as they were defeated by the Chicago Blackhawks in 6 games – in overtime no less.

The Flyers became the third team in NHL history to complete the 0-3 comeback, with the 1975 New York Islanders and the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs serving as their motivation.

Soon after, Mike Richards ended up becoming the only player to ever be apart of 2 successful 0-3 comebacks just 4 years later after his Los Angeles Kings defeated the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the playoffs in 2013-14.

Flyers fan born in the heart of Leafs nation

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