WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Mark Streit never heard of Rob Zepp.
Their paths, in many ways, are not all that different. Except Streit, who turned 37 this month, already has 607 games under his belt.
Streit made the jump to the NHL at the age of 28 back in the fall of 2005, brimming with confidence after a few late blooming seasons in his native Switzerland.
It was the same exact time - on the heels of the NHL lockout - that Zepp decided to cross the Atlantic in the other direction in a last ditch effort to make a career out of hockey. The previous year, Zepp put up unspectacular numbers with the ECHL's Florida Everblades, just about the lowest rung of real professional hockey at the time.
Streit has gone on to earn $33 million as one of the premier offensive defensemen in hockey. Zepp went on to win five German league championships in seven seasons.
Zepp was so comfortable, so successful in Berlin that he became a German national and represented his new nation at the World Championships. He considered finishing his career in Europe.
Last night, on the Canadian prairies of all places, the paths of Zepp and Streit collided.
Galvanized by Zepp's long and winding road, the Flyers put together an equally improbable two-goal rally and stunned the Jets, 4-3, in overtime to deliver him a win.
Zepp, 33, became the oldest goaltender to win his NHL debut since 1926. He compared the experience to climbing Mount Everest.
"I think that's the beauty of sports," Streit said. "Everywhere you look, there's always exceptions to the rule. Some guys make it to the NHL at 18 or 19 years old and some guys have to stick with it and work a lot harder. I think it's important. Guys like him never lose sight of their goal. They always believe in themselves."
Most players in Zepp's skates, even with the comfortable pay in Europe, would have quit long ago. There were 98 players taken ahead of him in the 1999 NHL Draft. Only five of them are still in the NHL this season: Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Martin Havlat, Jordan Leopold and Chris Kelly.
His story resonated with every player in the Flyers' locker room - from young to old, from entitled to hungry, from role player to star.
Hollywood-type storylines don't usually go over very well in NHL dressing rooms. Players today are usually immune to the narrative in their sterile bubble.
After NHL leading scorer Jake Voracek's winner just 10 seconds into overtime which capped the 3-1 comeback, all the attention was on Zepp. It was not cliche or forced; the Flyers were genuinely delirious for their newest teammate. It was perhaps the happiest the Flyers' locker room had been in two years.
"We're pretty much the same age and it was his first game," said Vinny Lecavalier, who broke the second-longest scoring drought of his career with two goals. "He definitely battled his whole career, bringing his family to Europe. He kept plugging away and plugging away, finally getting his chance tonight. It's great to get a win like that for him. You could tell after the game how happy he was. He deserves it."
No one gave Zepp a bigger hug than captain Claude Giroux. Yes, Giroux was thrilled the Flyers kicked off their season-long eight game road trip with two wins. But Giroux played a small role in Zepp's dream-come-true moment.
Giroux and then-teammate Danny Briere passed time during the NHL's 2012-13 lockout in Berlin, where Zepp backstopped the Polar Bears. They liked him. He is humble and unassuming. They also believed in his talent, professionalism and work ethic and vouched for him to the Flyers' scouting staff.
Without that chance encounter, without Gary Bettman's money grab, who knows if last night would have happened?
"You know, I've really been reflecting on the journey since I got called up," Zepp said. "There were so many moments that had to happen for this to come together. I always believed in myself and my abilities. I was fortunate to get a chance with the Flyers. For the guys to have a third period like tonight, that was extra special."
Without Zepp, the Flyers' furious third period charge would not have been possible. He stuck out his right pad and kept it there just long enough to outwit Winnipeg's Mark Scheifele in the waning seconds of the third period with a highlight reel save. Without that, the Flyers would have been trailing by three goals heading into the final frame.
"It's a huge save, no doubt about it," Berube said. "He made some big saves. I mean, it's a tough rink to come into and especially for a guy that hasn't played in the NHL. It's a tough rink. They come out hard."
He was required to only make two saves in the third period and overtime combined - that's how dominant the Flyers were in their push for the win. It almost seemed meant to be.
"It's been kind of a whirlwind the last 48 hours, but the way the guys battled in the third period there was unbelievable," Zepp said. "I've been playing hockey for 26 years and to be able to get here and play - you know, the game wasn't perfect - but to get the win like that at the end was just incredible. I appreciate this more than anybody knows."
Claude Giroux was hit in the face with an inadvertent stick in the second period. He writhed in pain on the ice but returned to the bench and finished the game without issue … Zepp was also the oldest player (of any position) in Flyers history to make his NHL debut … Lecavalier scored for the first time since Nov. 1, a span of 15 games … Voracek maintained his lead in the NHL scoring race with two points. He is two ahead (44 points) of Tyler Seguin (42). Claude Giroux (40) is alone in third place … Forward Zac Rinaldo missed the game with an "upper-body" injury suffered in the first period in Toronto on Saturday night. He is listed as "day-to-day" and could possibly play tomorrow night in Minnesota … The Flyers overcame a two-goal deficit to win for the second game in as many nights.