Rewind the video. Back to April 11, 2010. Back to a regular-season finale -- the New York Rangers facing the Flyers at a percolating building then known as the Wachovia Center -- that would send the winner to the playoffs and the loser to the golf course.
In short, it was one of the most important regular-season games in the Flyers’ history, and they emerged with a tense 2-1 shootout victory, a win that nearly propelled Team Resilient to an improbable Stanley Cup championship, a win that goalie Brian Boucher called the greatest of his career.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and I think it’s the No. 1 moment for me,” Boucher, 43, an NHL analyst for NBC, said from his Haddonfield home Tuesday. “From a one-game standpoint, that’s the one. If you won a Stanley Cup, I’m sure that would be the pinnacle of a career, but I never had that opportunity.”
Boucher’s career also included a modern NHL record scoreless streak of 332 minutes, 1 second, which he posted with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2003-04.
“The game where I broke the shutout streak was great,” Boucher said. “That was a personal accomplishment in the middle of a season. This was a team accomplishment where two teams are playing one another and the winner is going into the playoffs. It’s not like if the Rangers lost they were still going into the playoffs. It meant everything. In a way, it was as close as you can get to a Stanley Cup Final during the regular season.”
Boucher, though admitting he was “scared” before making his game-winning save, outdueled the great Henrik Lundqvist in the shootout that early evening. Two months and 14 playoff victories after that showdown, the Flyers came oh, so close to forcing a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final against Chicago.
But to even reach the playoffs, the Flyers had to overcome a 1-0 third-period deficit against Lundqvist and the Rangers in Game 82 of the regular season. Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of that emotional matchup.
The stakes were high for both the teams – the then-underachieving Flyers, who had faded badly down the stretch, and the surging Rangers, who were 7-1-1 in their last nine games before that regular-season finale.
“With the team and the players that we had, I didn’t even want to think about missing the playoffs,” Danny Briere, a star center on that team, recalled earlier this week. “I know we struggled down the stretch that year and almost lost our spot, but when you think about the players we had” -- including Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux, Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Matt Carle, and rookie James van Riemsdyk – “it would have been inexcusable to not make the playoffs.
“I never let my brain go down that path of not making the playoffs because it would have been terrifying to think about that,” he added.
Game 82 that season would be decided by defense, Rangers coach John Tortorella hoped, mindful that his team couldn’t match the Flyers’ offensive firepower.
The Rangers got an early first-period goal from enforcer Jody Shelley, of all people, and then went into a defensive shell. They allowed the Flyers lots of shots, but most were from the perimeter.
“After Jody Shelley’s goal, I felt they sat back and played Torts’ style,” recalled Briere, 42, vice president of operations for the Maine Mariners, an ECHL team owned by the Flyers’ parent company, Comcast Spectacor. “They played tight defensively and gave us the outside shot. And when you have a goalie like Lundqvist, you’re bound to win some of those games.”
Heading into the third period, the Flyers had outshot the Blueshirts, 30-13, but were trailing, 1-0.
With 13 minutes, 6 seconds left in regulation, Carle sent the anxious crowd into a frenzy, scoring a power-play goal to knot the score at 1-1. After Lundqvist denied Briere, Carter kept the rebound alive and Carle scored on a backhander.
“We were peppering him the whole game and we knew if we stuck with it, something good was going to happen,” Carle, a defenseman whose team outshot the Rangers, 47-25, said at the time. “I was fortunate that it bounced right on my tape and I was able to bury it.”
“I remember Lundqvist saying it was one of the toughest games he’s had to play in, with the mental aspect and because we were all over them,” Briere said. “We were in their zone constantly, so he didn’t have a chance to get a breather during the game.”
After Carle’s goal, the Flyers, coached by Peter Laviolette, had three quality chances that Lundqvist turned aside – including a Gagne shot that the goalie deflected off the crossbar.
The Rangers were on their heels late in regulation and in the overtime, content to take their chances in a shootout, where they figured Lundqvist would give them a decided edge.
“Looking back, I think they were playing for the shootout,” Briere said. “They knew they had one of the best shootout goalies in the history of the NHL, and we were not doing well in shootouts ourselves.”
In the first shot of the shootout, Briere gave the Flyers the lead by beating Lundqvist on the forehand from in close.
“It’s funny because in most of my shootouts, whenever I would come in, I would have three moves ready, and then depending on what the goalie would give me, I would adjust on my way toward the net,” Briere said.
“In that instance, because of how big the moment was, I knew what my move was going to be and I knew Lundqvist well enough that I knew I didn’t have to change my move. I knew exactly what I wanted to do; it was just a matter of executing.”
The standing-room-only crowd stood as Briere skated toward Lundqvist.
“I remember telling myself when I jumped on the ice, ‘Don’t think about the moment. Just focus on the net.’ I remember zoning out," Briere said. "I don’t even remember what the crowd was doing. I don’t know if the crowd was cheering as I was coming down or if it was quiet. I was able to completely block everything out and all I could see was the net. My move and the net. That’s all I was thinking about.”
Briere came in and faked the shot to freeze Lundqvist, made a quick move to the left then came back to the right and lifted the puck over the goalie’s pad.
“I knew Lundqvist would go into a butterfly and as I came back to my strong side, he would have his pad down toward the post and all I needed to do was put it over his pad," Briere said.
Briere, who can analyze a game with the best of them, said his move “sounds easy when you explain it that way, but for everything to go perfectly well and for the puck to sit flat and make the move at the right time so he can’t poke-check you [is difficult]. And you can’t go too fast and can’t be too far away from the net. A lot of it is timing. You have to have your timing perfectly right.”
Added Briere: “I knew I didn’t have to go too high with the shot, so I didn’t have to risk shooting the puck over the net. I just had to get it over the height of his pad laying on the ice.”
Boucher stopped Erik Christensen on New York’s first shootout attempt, and Lundqvist then denied Richards. The Rangers tied it as P.A. Parenteau lifted a shot over Boucher.
Up stepped Giroux, who usually tried to deke a goalie in these situations. He remembered a pregame discussion he had with Flyers goalie coach Jeff Reese about Lundqvist’s shootout tendencies. This time, he surprised Lundqvist by whipping a shot between his legs.
That meant the Flyers would win the shootout and climb into the playoffs if Boucher could stop Olli Jokinen.
“The strategy for a goaltender in a shootout is patience and matching the speed of the shooter,” Boucher said. “The hard part in that situation is to remain calm because you realize how big a moment this is.
"I was nervous. I’m not going to lie to you. I was scared. You’re in your own building, which is great energy, but at the same time, you want to be able to deliver. You have time to think about that. Before the shootout, you go back to the bench, and the nerves ramp up.”
Boucher said on his first shootout save, “I felt I did a good job of being patient and matching the speed of Christensen. It was a solid save, and on the goal I gave up to Parenteau, he lost the puck, but I was backing in too quick And even though it went off my paddle and up and over me and was an unfortunate break, I didn’t do a real good job on that one – and I don’t think I did a real good job on Jokinen’s, either.”
Didn’t do a good job on one of the most memorable and critical regular-season saves in the Flyers history?
“He was coming in from all the way down the other end of the ice and I was not calm or patient,” Boucher said. “I feel like I backed in way too much. If you see where I made that save, I’m almost on the goal line and inside my net. Had he gone forehand-backhand and gotten it up over my glove, I think it’s an easy goal.
"Fortunately for me, I think he had in his mind the whole time that he was going to go five-hole and I was able to make the pad save.”
“As far as being patient and staying calm, I don’t think I had it on that play, but I was fortunate that I don’t think Jokinen made the greatest of moves and it turned out to be a save that I made," he said.
Boucher also made, in his mind, the most memorable victory celebration of his 13-year NHL career.
For that, he can thank Lundqvist.
“We lost in Game 81 in New York, 4-3, and we could have clinched" a playoff spot with a win, Boucher said. “And I remember I’m sitting on the bench [after he was pulled late in the game] for an extra attacker, and when the horn goes off, Lundqvist always does this thing where he takes his stick and hits his post and then he gives like a fist-pump with his blocker. That’s his signature celebration. It’s a pretty cool celebration. It’s consistent and he always does it in big moments.
"And I remember standing on the bench and I was like, that son of a ….. And I said to myself, ‘I swear if we win Game 82, I’m doing his celebration because I was so mad and I was seething on the train ride back to Philly.”
After stopping Jokinen and giving the Flyers a playoff berth for the 34th time in 42 seasons, Boucher did his “Lundqvist.” Sort of.
“The problem was, I slipped when I went to get up” after making the save, Boucher said with a laugh. “I had to regain my footing and I gave the fist-pump.”
He also added a little extra to Lundqvist’s celebration.
“I don’t know if he gets the right leg up high like I did when we did it,” Boucher said. “I think Danny [Briere] was the first to celebrate with me. I probably squeezed him so hard. I was so fired up to get it done. It was such a big moment for me.”
And for his teammates, who used that win as a springboard for a remarkable playoff run that fell just short of the franchise’s first Stanley Cup since 1975.