Eighth in a series counting down the 10 most memorable playoff wins in Flyers history. Today: No. 3.
You can make a case that Bobby Clarke’s overtime goal in Game 2 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Final, immortalized by his joy-struck leap after he deposited his own rebound, was the most important tally in Flyers history.
Without it, the Flyers may have gone into a 2-0 series hole against favored Boston and never climbed out.
As it turned out, the goal tied the series at one win apiece and ended their 19-game (0-17-2) winless streak in Boston. They had not beaten the Bruins in Boston since Nov. 12, 1967, a 4-2 victory in the first game they had ever played there.
It made the upstart Flyers believe that they could not only compete with Bobby Orr and the powerful Bruins, but that they could beat them.
It reinforced the Flyers’ belief they could do what the rest of the hockey world doubted: bring a Stanley Cup to Philadelphia, which had joined the NHL just seven years earlier, when the league expanded and doubled its size from six to 12 teams.
“That game changed the whole series,” goaltender Bernie Parent recalled recently. “Boston had the home-ice advantage until that game, and if they win that game, I think the series would have had a different result.”
The Flyers would win the series in six games and capture the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
In a recent interview, Clarke modestly downplayed the significance of the goal, which caused scads of fans who watched the game at the Flyers’ hangout, Rexy’s, a bar/restaurant in South Jersey, to jump into their cars (along with thousands of others from the region) and greet the team when it arrived later that night at Philadelphia International Airport.
Even though the Bruins were the favorite in the Cup Final, and even though they had the top four regular-season scorers in the NHL, Clarke believed the Flyers were as good if not better than Boston before the series started.
“The first game was really even,” Clarke said about the Flyers’ excruciating 3-2 loss in Game 1 at Boston, “and Orr made a great play near the end of the game and they scored. But they couldn’t outplay us. We were as good as they were.
“I know they were the favorite going in, with Orr and [Phil] Esposito and all those guys. But if you look at the lineups, other than Orr -- who was by far the best player on either team -- I think we” were as talented or better than the Bruins, he said.
“I could play with Esposito. He was a better scorer, but as an all-around player, I could go head-to-head with him. And they didn’t have anybody who could go head to head with [Rick] MacLeish. Of all the players, [Bill] Barber was probably the best winger on both teams, even though he was young. And we had better coaching and better goaltending” than the Bruins.
“We had lots of young talent that was unknown," he added, "We hadn’t reached greatness from our players yet, but we were good as a team.”
Clarke said the Flyers had "lots of power, lots of horses, as many as they did except for Orr, so obviously we had to pay special attention to him. The first game and the fifth game, we weren’t able to control him, but generally we kept him under control.”
The Flyers tied Game 2, 2-2, when defenseman Andre “Moose” Dupont, with Parent pulled for an extra attacker, scored with 52 seconds remaining in regulation. He then did his famous “Moose Shuffle” to celebrate.
Enforcer Dave Schultz then put the game-winning overtime sequence in motion, intercepting defenseman Carol Vadnais’ pass and, from near the goal line by the left boards, alertly feeding winger Bill Flett at the hashmarks.
Flett threaded a slick backhand pass to Clarke in front, and his backhander was denied by goalie Gilles Gilbert. But the then-24-year-old center put his own rebound high into the net with 7 minutes, 59 seconds to go in the first overtime.
The Flyers’ bench emptied onto the ice. This was a momentous moment. This was their first win in the Boston Garden in 20 games and 6½ years – and just their second victory there in franchise history.
More important, it evened the series and made the Flyers realize the Bruins, who had won the Cup in 1970 and 1972, weren’t invincible.
“I don’t see how anybody can have doubts about us now,” Clarke said at the time. “We know we can beat them.”
Forty-six years later, his words were much more subdued.
“It turned out to be an extremely big goal,” Clarke said, “but if we don’t win the Stanley Cup, for me it would have been just been another overtime goal. But at that stage of the series, it was a really big goal for us.”
“He scored with his determination,” Parent said. “I always say it, but it’s true. We had the greatest leader in the game at that time.”