[photogallerylink id=20741 align=right]Simon Gagne and the Philadelphia Flyers put together one more dramatic comeback in a series full of rallies.
They got plenty of help from the Boston Bruins, who finished off another epic collapse with a penalty they’re all too familiar with.
Taking advantage of a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty, Gagne scored on a power play with 7:08 left to give Philadelphia a 4-3 victory Friday night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Flyers overcame a 3-0 series deficit and trailed 3-0 in the first period before rallying to advance to the conference finals against Montreal.
The Bruins will be remembered for their colossal collapse. They’re only the third team in NHL history to lose a series after winning the first three games.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Flyers poured off their bench and surrounded goalie Michael Leighton, who held the Bruins scoreless in the last two periods after starting just his second playoff game for injured Brian Boucher.
At the same time as the Flyers celebrated, the yellow towels fans had waved to spur on the home team came floating to the ice, resting there as signs of frustration for a crowd that won’t need them until next season
The penalty, a throwback to 1979 when a penalty for too many men on the ice cost the Bruins dearly – just as it did against Philadelphia.
This one occurred with 8:50 left and Gagne, a major force since returning from a toe injury for Game 4, scored with 18 seconds left in a power play.
In Game 7 of the Stanley Cup semifinals 31 years earlier, the Bruins were called for having too many men on the ice, leading to Guy Lafleur’s tying goal with 74 seconds left in the third period. Then Mario Tremblay won it at 9:33 of overtime, costing Boston a chance for the Stanley Cup and sending the Canadiens to the finals.
This time it was Gagne.
And now the seventh-seeded Flyers get to start the next round at home Sunday night against eighth-seeded Montreal.
“When that final buzzer went, it was a sigh of relief,” Philadelphia captain Mike Richards said.
Too many men and too few goals for Boston.
The Flyers capitalized on Friday’s penalty when Richards’ shot from the right circle hit players in front of Tuukka Rask. The puck bounced and Gagne, stationed to Rask’s left, flipped the puck over the goalie’s right shoulder.
The only other teams to win a series after trailing 3-0 were the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who beat Detroit, and the 1975 New York Islanders, who eliminated Pittsburgh. The other 159 teams that won the first three games in a series all won them.
The Bruins shot out to a 3-0 lead on power-play goals by Michael Ryder and Milan Lucic and another goal by Lucic. And only 14:10 had been played. Then James van Riemsdyk scored with 2:48 left in the first period.
“It feels nice to finally get one after I don’t know how many games it’s been,” van Riemsdyk said.
That goal sparked the Flyers.
“We started relaxing and playing hockey and feeling more comfortable on the ice,” Richards said.
Second-period goals by Scott Hartnell at 2:49 and Danny Briere at 8:39 tied it.
Boston lost its third straight Game 7 and first since falling to Carolina in last year’s conference semifinals after battling back from a 3-1 series deficit.
The Bruins and Flyers played aggressively at the start with plenty of end-to-end action in the first 5 minutes.
Then the Bruins got a break when Hartnell was penalized for high-sticking at 5:19 and Ryder scored his fourth playoff goal on a rebound 8 seconds later. Another Boston power play 3 minutes later led to another goal, this one by Lucic, who tipped in a pass across the crease from Dennis Wideman in the right corner.
Lucic struck again, scoring his fifth playoff goal five minutes later, at 14:10 on a shot from the right circle.
Another 3-0 lead. Another load of trouble ahead.
Leighton, who took over in Game 5 after sitting out nearly two months, didn’t let another goal past him.
Van Riemsdyk began the comeback with his first playoff goal 3 minutes after Lucic’s second goal on a soft shot that trickled by Rask. That was the first of nine consecutive shots by Philadelphia. One of them was Hartnell’s second goal of the playoffs. Another was Briere’s seventh playoff goal – on a wraparound.
There were no more goals – until Gagne sent the Bruins into an offseason wondering how it all fell apart.
NOTES: Patriots coach Bill Belichick attended the game. … Philadelphia beat second-seeded New Jersey in the first round, while Boston eliminated third-seeded Buffalo. … The Flyers are 8-6 in seventh games. The Bruins are 9-10.