Only eight games remain between the Philadelphia Flyers and what seems more and more like destiny.
With 3:04 left in the third period and the score locked at four, Scottie Upshall deflected a Jeff Carter shot past Canadians’ goalie Carey Price, giving the Flyers a late one-goal lead. Minutes later Mike Knuble followed up with a calming empty net goal to finalize the Flyers 6-4 victory over Montreal and advancement to the next round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“Carter made a great play in the middle throwing the shot on net, ” said an excited Upshall. “Lately I’ve been trying to get in front because that’s where a lot of our goals have been coming from. I just got my stick on it and it went in. It was a big goal for us.”
“We have a flair for the dramatic,” said Flyers coach John Stevens. “We like to make things exciting. I know the series was 4-1 but it was a lot closer than that and we’re lucky to be moving on.”
The series win sends the sixth-seeded Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals, a tier the team hasn’t been to since the legendary 2004 season. Philadelphia will face the winner of the Pittsburgh-Rangers series, in which the Penguins dominate 3-1, with the fifth game held Sunday at 2:00 pm.
Unlike the previous four games, the Flyers chased the play for most of the contest. For the first time in the series, the Canadians took the early first-period lead when Tomas Plekanec scored on the power play.
The weathered Flyers would not be discouraged however, returning the favor five minutes later with a high-light reel goal from red-hot R.J. Umberger.
But the Habs would not go quietly into the night as Alexei Kovalev and Chris Higgins would give the Canadians a 3-1 lead, in what seemed like a ticket back to Philadelphia for game six.
Not ready to do what they did the series before against the Washington Capitals – allowing the Caps to battle to a game seven after trailing 3-1 – the Flyers turned it on. Mike Richards, Umberger and Scotty Hartnell tallied three goals within three minutes to equalize and take the lead, 4-3.
Mike Richards’ captain’esque effort – Although he got the Flyers moving with a “hand of god” goal midway through the second period, it was Richards’ back checking and defensive play in the third period that mattered the most. Richards seemed determined to make sure his squad did not melt under the late-game pressure like they had done before in previous games. His efforts helping the Flyers snuff out the Canadians final-ditch effort.
Worst to first – For the first time since the Detroit Red Wings did it in the late 80’s, the Flyers went from the worst team in the league to making the Conference finals. The credit for such a turnaround goes to General Manager Paul Holmgren for grabbing character guys, including three former captains in free agency. It is the leadership that has kept the Flyers’ ship steady in the post season.
The mess that is Carey Price – Oh how the hyped have fallen. It seems like decades since the young goaltender was crowned the next Patrick Roy. Despite making 31 saves, including turning away two Flyers breakaways, Price took bad angles and could not direct his rebounds with any accuracy. Although Upshall, Richards and Umberger’s first were not the fault of the talking shooter-tutor, Hartnell and Umberger’s second were absolutely soft.
Carbo’s Tie – The legend of Guy Carbonneau’s lucky tie ran rampant in the world of the Habs. As the story goes this ugly techno color tie was only brought out by Guy on special occasions and the biggest of big games. Unfortunately for the Habs, their “Kate Smith”, was about as nice looking as it was effective.
Danny Briere, go high glove – Late in the third period with the game tied at four, Flyers’ teenage looking sniper, Danny Briere, went in on a breakaway in what could have iced the series. He deked backhand and went forehand, only to smush the puck into the extended leg pad of Price. With the problems Price has had with his glove hand, that should have been Briere’s first look – but it wasn’t and he needs to know better.