The 2009-10 season brought about so many good memories – obviously one very damning and sad one as well – but it was a season filled with high-highs and low-lows.
The Philadelphia Flyers were not going to make the playoffs had it not been for the journeyman performance by Michael Leighton in the regular season before he went down with an injury. Between the 6th of January and the 2nd of March, Leighton amassed a 9-3-0 record with a .924 SV% and a 2.25 GAA. They limped into the final spot of the playoffs with a shootout victory against the New York Rangers, which ultimately was the beginning of their Cinderella run.
John Stevens was fired after a 13-11-1 start to the season and replaced by former Stanley Cup winning head coach, Peter Laviolette. With the season about to conclude, the Flyers were staying above water and winning more games than not but then all of a sudden they dropped 5 in a row and 7 of their last 8 games. With 4 games left, the Flyers defeated the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs before setting the stage for a home-and-home against the New York Rangers – who were also fighting for that final spot.
The John Tortorella-led Rangers won the first game 4-3 on home ice, keeping their season alive. The Flyers tied it late on Mike Richards’ 31st of the season but Marian Gaborik scored the game-winning goal with 3:06 remaining for his 42nd of the season and setting up the fireworks for the finale. Jody Shelley scored his 2nd goal in as many games to open things up in Game 82 before Matt Carle tied it in the third. Daniel Brière and Claude Giroux scored in the shootout before Brian Boucher stopped Olli Jokinen to send the Flyers into the postseason.
The Flyers then handily defeated the #2-seeded New Jersey Devils in 5 games before pulling off an upset of epic proportions against the Boston Bruins where they were down in the series – and Game 7 – 0-3. The upset set the stage for an Eastern Conference Finals matchup between the Flyers and the 8th-seeded Montreal Canadiens, giving the Orange and Black an unlikely and rare home-ice advantage as the 7th seed.
Michael Leighton posted back to back shutouts on home ice as the Flyers won the first game by a score of 6-0 and then followed it up with a 3-0 victory. They were taken down in Game 3 by a score of 5-1 before Leighton and the Flyers shut them out again in Game 4 by a score of 3-0.
The Canadiens scored the game’s opening goal in Game 5 only 59 seconds in, courtesy of Brian Gionta. They were giving the Flyers hell to start with their season on the line and with Kimmo Timonen in the box for a roughing penalty, Montreal had their eyes set on an early 2-0 lead on the road.
On this day, 13 years ago, captain Mike Richards provided us with one of the most iconic shifts in franchise history.
With 15:59 remaining in the first period, Mike Richards unloaded a huge body check on defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron at the point, which allowed the Flyers to jump on a shorthanded odd-man rush. Claude Giroux picked it up, had Richards on his side, and Braydon Coburn trailing. Giroux fed it to Richards who then set up Coburn for a one-timer that stopped by Jaroslav Halak. As the Canadiens were trying to go the other way on an odd-man rush of their own, Coburn delivered a massive check – again on Bergeron – as they entered the offensive zone.
Matt Carle tied up the stick of Glen Metropolit, which allowed Giroux to pick up the loose puck in the corner. He cleared it out of the zone but his clearing attempt stopped almost dead in it’s tracks which caused Halak to second guess his decision. Mike Richards was already making a beeline for the puck and had an edge on Roman Hamrlik, who was the Montreal defenseman trailing back. It was a race for the loose puck that Richards eventually got to and he dove for the shot. His initial chance was was stopped by Halak, who then collided into his own defenseman, which allowed Richards to get back onto his feet and deposit the game tying goal into an empty net and sent the fans into a frenzy.
Arron Asham and Jeff Carter scored 2 goals in a span of 1:24 in the early part of the second period to give the Flyers an unassailable 3-1 lead. Scott Gomez chipped back into the deficit with his 2nd of the post-season with 6:53 to go before Carter iced things up with his 2nd goal of the game into an empty net with 23 seconds left. The Flyers advanced to their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1997.
The goal scored by Richards was his 6th of the 2010 playoffs and 1st of the series, but it came at the most opportune time. His goal quelled the Canadiens’ momentum and gave the Flyers all the juice they needed to take them down and vie for their first Cup since 1975.
Adding a little intrigue to the mix, Mike Richards ended up lifting the Prince of Wales Trophy, while Chicago’s Jonathan Toews stuck to the superstition and rejected the notion of lifting the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl.