This week marked the 26th anniversary of one of the biggest goals in Philadelphia Flyers history; a moment so incredible that the locals still believe the streets of Broad and Pattison have never been louder for an indoor sporting event. That goal – which is No. 3 on the list – left me pondering what other playoff finishes are synonymous with Flyers hockey. After careful consideration, I made a list of what I believe are the 10 greatest goals the franchise has seen since its inception in 1967 – whether it’s because of their significance, their heroics, or their wow-factor.
10 – Ron Hextall Does It Again
During his third season, goaltender Ron Hextall became the first at his position to ever score what he called a “true goal”, when he sent a well positioned puck down the length of the ice and into an empty net to seal a 5-2 win over the Boston Bruins. The following year he did it again, the same way, but this time in the postseason during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Washington Capitals. Hextall once again put his name in the record books, becoming the first goaltender to achieve the feat in the playoffs and although it wasn’t quite as memorable as the first, it’s certainly one of the more fun postseason goals in franchise history.
9 – Joffrey Lupul’s Overtime Game Seven Winner
Philadelphia really wasn’t sure what to expect from its beloved Flyers during the 2007-08 campaign. After failing to qualify for the playoffs the year before – one of the worst seasons in franchise history – it was anyone’s guess just how the retooled team would finish the year. All the new faces helped lead the Flyers to a first round matchup with the Capitals and after six hard fought games, the series shifted back to our nation’s capital for Game 7. But it would take more than regulation time to decide this one. Just over six minutes into the extra stanza, Joffrey Lupul grabbed the rebound from a Kimmo Timonen shot and put it past Washington goaltender Cristobal Huet to help the Flyers advance to the second round.
8 – Simon Gagne Completes the Comeback
It might not have been the most flashy postseason goal in franchise history, but Simon Gagne’s goal midway through the third period not only erased a 0-3 first period deficit, it also erased a 0-3 series deficit and helped the Flyers become one of the only teams to win the last four games when facing elimination. It was a simple wrist shot thanks to a juicy Tuukka Rask rebound but the celebration it caused was unprecedented – giving the city hope for a third Stanley Cup. That never happened but this series was a nice consolation prize and this game in particular was the greatest I’ve seen in my lifetime.
7 – Eric Lindros’ Last Minute Heroics
The 1997 Eastern Conference Finals between the Flyers and New York Rangers had it all – superstars, quality goaltending and a heated rivalry. Game 4 was big for the Rangers, trailing 2-1 in the series and with the game tied at 2-2, it appeared to be heading to overtime. Nobody told that to Eric Lindros, however. “Big E” received a dish with just seven seconds left in regulation and beat Rangers goaltender Mike Richter with a backhanded shot to stun the Rangers. Anytime it’s against a division rival, it’s all the more sweet, though that feeling didn’t last too long once the Flyers advanced to the finals.
6 – Gary Dornhoefer’s Overtime Game-Winner Against Minnesota
It’s difficult to see a Flyers highlight reel, whether it be on television or on the jumbotron, and not see Gary Dornhoefer’s classic 1973 goal in the first round of the playoffs against the Minnesota North Stars. The franchise had never won a series up to that point but that was all about to change – and Dornhoefer’s overtime-winner was a big reason why. The unlikely hero skated down the ice alone, avoided the goaltender and scored right before falling to give Philadelphia a 3-1 series lead. It was an image that stood out so much in the hearts and minds of the city that a statue was erected outside of the Spectrum to pay homage to one of the team’s more important goals. Though the Flyers would fail to win the Stanley Cup, that goal was the one that kick started their winning ways in the 1970s.
5 – Simon Gagne’s Overtime Winner Forces Eastern Conference Finals Game 7
It was Game 6 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals and with the Flyers trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 late in regulation, it appeared as though Philadelphia was headed for the golf course instead of the Stanley Cup Finals. But then Keith Primeau tied it up with less than two minutes left to play and suddenly the team, the building, the city, had juice. The overtime period was back-and-forth until yet again, with less than two minutes left in the first overtime, Flyers left winger Simon Gagne buried a pass from Primeau to send 20,000 orange-wearing fanatics into a frenzy. I won’t mention Game 7 and how that turned out.
4 – Keith Primeau’s Game-Winning Goal in Five-Overtime Thriller
While most of Pennsylvania was asleep, the Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins played late into the morning, five overtime periods to be exact, in the hopes of finding a winner for Game 3 of their 2000 Eastern Conference Semifinal series. It has become lore that the team not only finished off their post game pizzas during the intermission, but also ran out of Gatorade due to dehydration. In the end though it was Primeau who pulled of a beautiful dangle before shooting a laser of a wrist shot past Penguins goaltender Ron Tugnutt to put the game to bed. It was a turning point for the Flyers who eventually came back to win the series after being down two games to none.
Only two games in 1933 and 1936 can boast being longer but not too many have a more exciting finish.
3 – J.J. Daigneault Pushes a Dynasty to the Brink
The year was 1987. The Flyers were battling a dynasty in the Edmonton Oilers and were a huge underdog, but the scrappy team wasn’t about to go down – at least not without a fight. And that’s exactly what happened. Trailing late in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Flyers tied it up late in regulation thanks to a goal from Brian Propp. Just 84 seconds later, defenseman J.J. Daigneault stepped up to a puck at the blueline and boomed it past Oiler’s goaltender Grant Fuhr. The building was loud, maybe even deafening as it celebrated the team’s most memorable play of the 1980s.
2 – “Bobby Clarke Scores!”
The “Big, Bad” Boston Bruins were favored to win yet another Stanley Cup in 1974 and with Philadelphia trailing 1-0 in the series, Game 2 was as close to must-win as it gets without facing elimination. Tied 2-2 in overtime, it was time for Flyers captain Bobby Clarke to take matters in his own hands. Clarke received a pass in front of the net and quickly fired a shot – but was denied. The rebound popped right back to No. 16 and he forced it home, jumping up and down immediately after doing so. The goal was the turning point in the series, as the Flyers rattled off two more wins in a row and eventually hoisted the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. The call Flyers announcer Gene Hart made was legendary and still gives me goosebumps.
1 – Jeremy Roenick Takes Out the Maple Leafs
With the attention on injured Flyers winger-turned-defenseman Sami Kapanen, Jeremy Roenick hopped onto the ice and what happened next was simply amazing. Philadelphia led the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 and was on the road in a series that had become vicious. The score was knotted at two with 13 minutes left in overtime at which point Kapanen was decked and left shaken and injured. As he slowly hobbled back to the bench, with television cameras focused on him, Roenick stepped onto the ice. Toronto had the puck in the Flyers zone but a quick outlet pass started Roenick up the ice at which point he fired a wrist shot that blew past goaltender Ed Belfour. Immediately he celebrated by running along the ice. The ending was epic, the celebration was epic and Jim Jackson’s call was epic. Any die hard Flyers fan can tell you just where he or she was when that goal reached the back of the net.