Fourth in a series counting down the 10 most memorable playoff wins in the Flyers’ history. Today: No. 7.
Simon Gagne scored one of the most famous goals in franchise history, enabling the Flyers to become the third team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit and rally past Boston in Game 7 of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, 4-3, at the stunned TD Garden.
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Gagne was far from healthy at the time, having recently returned from a surgically repaired right big toe. Playing through the pain made his late Game 7 goal that much more heroic.
But the goal, the biggest of his superb 14-year career, wasn’t the game’s turning point, Gagne said.
Instead, he pointed at coach Peter Laviolette’s timeout, called after the Bruins built a 3-0 lead with 5 minutes, 50 seconds left in the first period in that Game 7.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Gagne, now 40, said from his home in Quebec City earlier this month. “I don’t want to say our whole team – but a good percentage of the team – had their heads down when it was 3-0 in that game. To be honest, even me, it was 3-0, in Boston, and the crowd was loud, and (the feeling) was like, ‘OK, we gave it a shot. We forced a Game 7, but we’re going to lose.' It almost looked like it was impossible to come back.”
Gagne, whose overtime goal won Game 4 in the series, paused.
“I think the turning point was when Lavy called that timeout. He could see most of the team was down and almost felt like we were done, even though there was a lot of time left.”
During the timeout, which came after Milan Lucic scored to make it 3-0, Laviolette told his players to just focus on scoring before the end of the first period.
“All we need is one goal. Let’s start from there,” he told them. “Don’t look at it like we need to score three goals right away.”
James van Riemsdyk, then a rookie, scored with 2:48 left in the first period to trim the deficit to a more-manageable 3-1.
“After that, it was like, ‘Lavy was right,’ ” Gagne said.
Besides Laviolette’s timeout and speech, Gagne said the Flyers got inspiration from Lucic, who, after he scored to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead, skated by the visitors’ bench and flexed his muscles.
“He kind of laughed at us, and that pissed a lot of guys off,” Gagne said. “He made that bicep move. It was like he was saying, ‘You guys are going to go down.’ That and Lavy’s timeout gave us a little bit of energy.”
Ditto van Riemsdyk’s first career playoff goal.
“When JVR scored to make it 3-1, you could almost sense at that point that Boston was just trying to ride out the time,” Brian Boucher said recently.
Boucher, the team’s goalie, injured the MCL in both knees earlier in that series, and he watched Game 7 from a suite on the press level.
As the second period got underway, Boucher said, the Bruins “didn’t have that same pop they had at the start of the game. They were almost like trying to protect the lead. I was a fan at that point and you could feel we had time on our side and momentum once JVR scored.”
The Flyers got second-period goals from Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere to tie it at 3-3 against rookie goalie Tuukka Rask, 23, who had a brilliant regular season.
“I look back and Rask was a young goalie at the time, and I don’t know if he was ready for the moment just yet,” said Boucher, now an NHL analyst with NBC. “He was a good goaltender at the time – he’s a great goaltender now – but you could sense there were a lot of nerves in his game because they had blown a 3-0 lead."
“To me, what was truly amazing is that we relived that whole round in one game,” Briere said, referring to coming back from both a 3-0 series deficit and a 3-0 hole in Game 7 – the first time that had been done, simultaneously, in NHL history. “It was a roller coaster of a playoff round and a roller coaster of a game as well.”
Briere, who set a franchise record with an NHL-best 30 points in the 2010 playoffs, said he was “losing my mind” when the Flyers allowed the first three goals “We had worked so hard just to give ourselves a chance to play in that Game 7, and to give them the first three goals, I was seeing red. I was so livid.”
And then Laviolette called his time out.
“I think Lavy knew one goal would put doubts in their mind,” Briere said. “And it did, but I was so furious at the time, I couldn’t see it. After the first period in our dressing room, it was dead quiet. No one was saying a word. After the second period, it was the total opposite. It was like we knew we had won. Guys were fired up. Guys were talkative. The energy and momentum we had built in the second period, we knew we were winning that game.”
Briere said the Bruins became tentative.
“We could see it in their eyes, we could see it in the way they were playing," he said. "They were afraid. They didn’t want the puck, they didn’t want to make plays. The pressure was all on them at that point.”
With 7:08 left in the game and the Flyers on a power play because of a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty against the Bruins, Gagne scored from the right circle after picking up a carom on a Mike Richards shot that never reached the net.
Briere said one of his most lasting impressions of the win came a couple days later when he watched a video of the Flyers fans’ joy-struck reaction to Gagne’s goal while they viewed the game on the scoreboard at what was then known as the Wachovia Center.
“It’s pretty amazing to think about how we were able to affect a building with no one on the ice – I heard they were only expecting a few thousand people and it was packed – and it was pretty wild to see it,” he said.