Flyers eliminate Leafs with dominating Game 7 performancePosted: Tuesday April 22, 2003 9:41 PM
Updated: Wednesday April 23, 2003 4:42 AM
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- With their season on the line and memories of recent playoff failures on their minds, the Philadelphia Flyers came through with their most dominant performance.
"We needed our best game and we got it," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I've never seen a team in such a stressful situation act so calm."
The Flyers, advancing to the second round for the first time in three years, will play Ottawa in the Eastern Conference semifinals, starting Friday night. The Senators beat the Flyers in five games in the first round last year, holding them to a record-low two goals.
The Maple Leafs had won four straight first-round series.
Simon Gagne and Keith Primeau also scored for Philadelphia, which lost in the opening round four of the last five years. It was the Flyers' first victory in a Game 7 since they beat Pittsburgh in the second round in 1989.
"There was immense pressure on our club and certain individuals," Primeau said. "I don't know if I was ever this nervous before a game."
Gary Roberts scored Toronto's only goal.
"Maybe they finally made a step that they know how to play when the pressure is on," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said of Philadelphia.
For the first time since the 1950 Stanley Cup finals, Games 6 and 7 were played on consecutive nights. The Maple Leafs beat the Flyers 2-1 in double overtime Monday night.
Weary from the grueling loss just 24 hours earlier, the Flyers got a boost from their two youngest players in uniform. Gagne, 23, and Williams, 21, scored 2:45 apart late in the first period for a 2-0 lead.
"We were tired when we got here, but when we got on the ice, we found the energy," Gagne said.
Roman Cechmanek stopped 18 shots, winning his first playoff series in three tries.
Gagne gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead on his third goal of the series with 3:37 left in the first period. Primeau set up the goal by keeping the puck in Toronto's zone and passing to Williams behind the net. Williams centered in front to Gagne, who wristed a shot past Ed Belfour into the top left corner.
Belfour, who had 72 saves in Philadelphia's 3-2 triple-overtime victory in Game 4, stopped just 30 of 36 shots.
Williams made it 2-0 with 52 seconds left in the period, redirecting a pass from Claude Lapointe over Belfour's glove for his first career playoff goal in 11 games.
The line of Gagne, Williams and Primeau finished with six points.
"We had been effective in the series, but it just wasn't indicative on the score sheet," Williams said.
Primeau, criticized for his lack of offensive production in the playoffs, made it 3-0 midway through the second period. He scored just one second after Toronto killed a power play that included a two-man advantage for 1:05.
It was Primeau's ninth goal in 104 playoff games, and his first since he scored the winner in the fifth overtime against Pittsburgh on May 4, 2000.
The Leafs cut it to 3-1 on Roberts' goal. But Recchi scored his fifth and sixth goals of the series 3:06 apart late in the middle period to give the Flyers a four-goal lead.
Recchi's second goal came during a two-man advantage. Recchi's first shot from the side of the net was blocked, but the puck went right back to him and he lifted it over Belfour.
A physical series since the start, both teams, probably tired from the back-to-back games, lacked the aggressiveness they displayed in other games. There were several mishandled pucks early, a couple players tripped over their own skates and few hard checks were thrown.
"There's no excuse," Roberts said. "Both teams were playing under the same circumstances. We just didn't get geared up to play."
Lapointe capped the scoring midway through the third period with his first playoff goal since scoring his only other two for Quebec in 1993.
Notes: The Flyers hadn't played a seventh game since losing at home to New Jersey in the 2000 conference finals after wasting a 3-1 series lead. That was Eric Lindros' last game with the Flyers. ... This was just Philadelphia's second Game 7 in 14 years. The Flyers are 6-5 in Game 7s, including 5-3 at home. ... Toronto is 11-8 in Game 7s. The Maple Leafs won two seventh games last year on the way to the conference finals. ... Alexander Mogilny had five goals in the first three games, but none since missing Game 4 with concussion symptoms.