Sixth in a series counting down the 10 most memorable playoff wins in the Flyers’ history. Today: No. 5.
When the Flyers won their first Stanley Cup in 1974, three goals stood out in the Final: Rick MacLeish’s series-clincher in Game 6, Bobby Clarke’s overtime tally in Game 2, and Bill Barber’s dramatic score late in Game 4.
Each was critical for a different reason. Each will live in Flyers lore.
Barber’s goal is probably the least appreciated of the three famous scores, but it was the one that gave the underdog Flyers a 3-1 series lead against Boston and made the team’s Cup chances go from plausible to realistic.
“Huge, huge goal,” goaltender Bernie Parent said the other day.
The Game 4 win drove home a point to a stunned hockey world. It made folks realize that the Broad Street Bullies were much more skilled than their nickname suggested, that they had more talent than the cynics believed, that the Flyers – adored in Philadelphia, hated by other teams’ fans because of their intimidating style of play -- were on the verge of winning a Cup just seven years after they joined the NHL as one of the league’s six expansion teams.
Clarke was on the ice at the Spectrum when Barber’s 30-foot drive from near the left boards beat goalie Gilles Gilbert and gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead with 5 minutes, 35 seconds left. The Flyers won, 4-2.
“That shot,” Clarke said a couple of weeks ago, “was a rocket. [Reggie] Leach could shoot like that. A real heavy, hard, high shot, the kind of shot where if it hit the goaltender’s shoulder, he was going to get hurt in those days.”
Barber, like Clarke, is now an adviser with the Flyers. He lives part-time in Siesta Key, Fla., about 12 miles from one of Clarke’s homes, and spends the rest of the year in South Jersey.
Barber, 67, recently had both knees replaced at the same time at the Rothman Institute.
“Now I can walk again, which is an absolute blessing,” he said. “For about 10, 12 years, I couldn’t walk any distance without having difficulty. That’s been corrected. Now I can walk on the beach and ride beach bikes and I ride a motorcycle a little bit, so it’s all good.”
But not as good as it felt on the night of May 14, 1974, when Barber ended an extremely rare (for him) nine-game goalless streak.
The game-winning sequence started when Ross Lonsberry beat Boston’s superstar defenseman, Bobby Orr, to a loose puck along the left boards and slid it back to the left point. Barber, a left winger who was playing the right side because of an injury to Gary Dornhoefer, hustled to his left, gathered the puck, and moved closer to the net before firing a drive just over Gilbert’s catching hand.
“The funny part about it is, I was reluctant to shoot there,” Barber said of his game-winner. “Prior to the puck arriving to me – and I’ll never forget the goal – the puck was kind of up on edge, and I remember Bobby Orr going down [in front of the net] and I just missed his head with the shot.
"I kind of half-whipped a shot, it was like lacrosse almost. You’re whipping it at the net and Hail Mary-ing it. It took off, for whatever reason. It went right by Bobby’s ear and I don’t know if Gilbert saw it or not, but it was in the corner of the net quickly and went in and out of the net.”
Andre “Moose” Dupont added an insurance goal with 3:20 to go.
Two games later, after a 5-1 loss in Boston, the Flyers won the Cup at the Spectrum with a tension-filled, 1-0 victory in Game 6. To this day, it is the only Cup they have ever won on home ice.
The Game 4 win paved the way.
“It was a big game for us, a game we needed to win if we wanted to keep the home-ice advantage,” said Barber, who scored 420 goals in his career and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990. “That was the game that put the stranglehold on the series.”
Barber called the Game 4 goal the biggest of his career “because it was our first Cup, it was against Boston, and was in a critical game we needed to win. We did not want to go back to Boston tied at two games apiece.”
The goal and the emotional eruption from the jam-packed Spectrum crowd, Barber said, “made me shiver from my neck to my toes.”
The Stanley Cup championship was on the horizon.