After 105 games - including a shoot-out win that earned a playoff berth on the last day of the regular season and an epic comeback from a 3-0 series deficit in the conference semifinals - the Flyers' gritty, memorable season came to an end Wednesday night with an unwanted snapshot: the Chicago Blackhawks celebrating on the Wachovia Center ice after winning their first Stanley Cup since 1961.
Patrick Kane's goal 4 minutes, 10 seconds into the overtime enabled the Blackhawks to defeat the gallant Flyers, 4-3, and win the hard-fought best-of-seven series, four games to two.
Afterward, the arena roared with "Let's go Flyers!" chants as the players lined up for the traditional handshake.
"They were with us the whole season and we wanted to win for them, too," Claude Giroux said. "This is not how we wanted to end it."
Kane's shot from deep inside the left circle went through Michael Leighton's legs into the right corner of the net. The goal light did not go on, and the play was reviewed to make sure the puck indeed had entered the net.
The goal stood, and Chicago had ended the NHL's longest current Cup drought.
It was anticlimactic because the Hawks didn't pile onto the ice for several seconds, unsure if it was a goal.
"I just threw it on net, and I knew right away it was in," Kane said as he exchanged hugs with friends and family members on the ice.
After his goal, Kane made a mad sprint down the other end of the ice to start celebrating.
The goal offset a frantic late rally by Team Resilient.
With a record crowd watching at the rollicking Wachovia Center, Scott Hartnell sent it into overtime with his second goal of the game, a rebound that he poked just inside the left post with 3:59 left in regulation.
The Wachovia Center eruption rivaled the roar heard at the Spectrum in 1987, when J.J. Daigneault's late goal gave the Flyers a Game 6 Finals win over Edmonton.
Giroux had the Flyers' best scoring chance in overtime.
Jonathan Toews, despite a disappointing Finals, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.
The Flyers, again getting no production from their first line, were a step slower most of the night and have lost in their last six Finals.
The Hawks dominated from early in the first period and outshot the Flyers, 41-24.
The loss ended a remarkable run for the Flyers, who showed more resiliency than any team in the franchise's history. Despite a slew of injuries, they defeated New Jersey in the opening round. They then overcame a 3-0 series deficit to shock Boston and crushed Montreal to reach the Finals.
"It stings. It hurts," Hartnelll said. "It'll give us more fuel in training camp next year."
Trailing 3-2, the Flyers didn't get their first third-period shot until Jeff Carter's right-circle drive with 13:20 left.
Antti Niemi made a handful of key saves to protect the 3-2 lead until Hartnell's clutch goal.
After Hartnell tied it at 3-3, the Flyers stormed the net. They had their best chance when Niemi flopped to the ice, but Carter couldn't get enough lift on his shot from out front, and the goalie made the save.
"In the long run, we should be proud of what we've done this year," said Carter, who returned from his second broken foot this season to play in part of the playoffs. "With all the adversity we faced, the coaching changes . . . We were basically last place in the conference and we battled our way back."
Former Flyer Patrick Sharp, who as a member of the Philadelphia Phantoms celebrated a Calder Cup championship five years ago on the same ice, and Andrew Ladd erased a 2-1 deficit and gave Chicago a 3-2 second-period lead.
Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson's point shot was going several feet wide when Ladd, skating to the left of the net with defenseman Braydon Coburn draped on him, made a remarkable tip off the blade of his stick, putting the Hawks ahead, 3-2, with 2:17 left in the second period.
NHL officials got ready to roll out the red carpet for a possible Cup presentation.
Earlier in the day, the printing on the back of Ian Laperriere's black T-shirt, worn under his jersey at the morning skate, was the Flyers' unofficial theme for Game 6. "Don't Stop Until You Get Enough" said the printing beneath a picture of the Stanley Cup.
To a man, the Flyers weren't going to be satisfied until their amazing, two-month playoff journey ended with their hoisting the Cup.
Try as they might, the Flyers seemed to be skating in quicksand in the opening period compared to the fleet Blackhawks. Chicago's passing and forechecking were pristine as it played one of its best periods of the Finals.
Somehow, though, the Flyers left the ice tied at 1-1 after the first 20 minutes.
Goalie Michael Leighton's 16 saves and Hartnell's power-play goal with 26.5 seconds left in the period enabled the Flyers to find themselves in a fortunate 1-1 tie.
Chicago outshot the Flyers, 17-7, and had 10 blocked shots in the opening period.
As he battled for position in front, Hartnell got knocked to the ice by Duncan Keith. Hartnell popped to his feet and knocked in a rebound of Danny Briere's drive, tying the score at 1-1.
"We didn't do a good job of getting pucks to the net the whole 20 minutes, especially on the power play," Hartnell said. "Good things happen when you shoot the puck from the top and keep it simple. I was able to get the rebound and put it through his five hole."
In the first 20 minutes, Hartnell said, the Flyers looked like the team that was outscored, 3-0, in the opening-period disaster in Game 5.
"We were standing around and watching," said Hartnell, whose team switched Carter from the first line to third (flipping with Giroux) in the second period. "I don't know if we were nervous or just waiting to see what they were going to do. This is not our style of play. It is not effective and it doesn't win hockey games."
Twenty-four seconds into the second period, Niemi made a pad save to stop Simon Gagne on a breakaway.
Despite being badly outplayed, the Flyers took a 2-1 lead on a brilliant setup by Leino, who streaked into the Hawks' zone on the left side and fed Briere on the right. Briere rifled a shot upstairs.
But Chicago continued to get lots of odd-man rushes, and one led to the tying goal - a right-circle wrister by Sharp with 10:02 left in the second period. The goal, scored on a four-on-four, made it 2-2.
About eight minutes later, Ladd's sensational tip-in gave the Hawks a 3-2 lead.
The Flyers looked out of gas until they started to find another gear with about 10 minutes left in regulation.
"I think when you go through something together as a group, you learn a lot about your team, a lot about your players, what they're made of," coach Peter Laviolette said. "I'm proud of the guys for giving themselves an opportunity to compete for the Cup. It hurts right now. But they never quit."
Even in defeat, the Flyers did their slogan proud: They were relentless.