Give the Philadelphia Flyers a tightrope. Send them out on the ledge. Show them the precipice of destruction. And then watch them shine. It would have been enough for the Flyers to make some history just by coming back from a 3-0 deficit in games to win a series against the Boston Bruins, 4-3, but on Friday, they also spotted the Bruins three goals, then scored four times to pull off an improbable 4-3 victory in the final game of their Eastern conference semifinal series.
Just like that, the team that needed a shootout win against the Rangers in the 82nd and last tilt of the season merely to make the playoffs, the team that finished 18th in the league during the season with just 88 points, will now open the Eastern Conference finals at home Sunday against the Montreal Canadiens, who were only the 19th-best team.
That combination of regular-season ignominy has never reached such heights in North American sports history. Yes, the Flyers are simply not comfortable with prosperity. They'd much rather face the danger of
But it took a combination of heroics from Philly's hobbling hero
Boston began with a bang, grabbing a 3-0 lead on a goal by
On the first goal,
After Lucic scored an unassisted goal, it looked as though Leighton, the fourth-game replacement for an injured
Until then, forward
In the second period,
"I've been down, 3-0 before and I never had that feeling as strong as it was against the Bruins."
Perhaps it was because the Bruins could never really scare anyone with a star sniper they didn't have or a goaltender who was already exceeding expectations after spending much of the year as a back-up or because Boston was only a No. 6 seed in its own right, but the Flyers were right to think another shoe could still drop.
The decisive gaffe occurred midway through the third period, when the Bruins were undone by another bench minor that has clouded the franchise before. This time, center
"Simon is an elite player in the National Hockey League," said Flyers coach
The sacrifice and circumstance left both teams on opposite sides of history.
For those fatalistic Bruins' historians, this faux pas called to mind the most infamous too-many men penalty ever recorded. That one was also in a seventh game and it also buried Boston. The year was 1979 and the Bruins were leading the then three-time champion Canadiens, 4-3 in the third period, when
Only twice in the NHL annals did a team rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. The Maple Leafs did it against the Red Wings in 1942 and the upstart Islanders did it against the Penguins in 1975, their first year in the post-season. That year, the Flyers were nearly on the other side of a 3-0 rally as the Islanders came from 3-0 down again to even their very next series against Philadelphia before falling in the seventh game of the East finals in the old Spectrum.
"We've been resilient all year," said Flyers captain