Work in Sports
Flyers' center evens series with blast in fifth OT
Posted: Saturday May 06, 2000 01:37 AM
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- To the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was the game of a lifetime. It probably seemed to last that long, too.
Keith Primeau, the man who could never seem to score in the playoffs, ended the third longest game in NHL history early Friday morning by scoring at 12:01 of the fifth overtime to give the exhausted Flyers a memorable 2-1 victory over the Penguins.
Primeau, who had only seven goals in 78 career playoff games, carried the puck along the right wing boards, put a move on defenseman Darius Kasparaitis and powered a wrist shot past Ron Tugnutt, who stopped 70 of the Flyers' first 71 shots.
"There's 20 heroes in that locker room," Primeau said. "I was just the goal scorer. Everybody's been on me to shoot more. I got the puck flat, for once tonight, and shot it upstairs."
The top-seeded Flyers won both games in Pittsburgh, each in overtime, to even at 2-2 an Eastern Conference semifinal series in which the home team has yet to win.
The last 10 multiple-overtime NHL playoff games have been won by the visiting team.
"[Backup goalie] John Vanbiesbrouck kept saying, 'This is epic. This is going to go down in history,'" Primeau said. "I think everyone here realizes it was a special night."
Tugnutt played one of the greatest games by a goalie in NHL history, but it will go down as a loss. No doubt, a difficult-to-take loss that the seventh-seeded Penguins may have difficulty recovering from before Game 5 Sunday at Philadelphia.
"I really don't remember too much about the goal," Tugnutt said. "I saw Primeau go wide and cut back and he let a hard wrist shot go. That's about all I remember."
Primeau won't ever forget it.
"I didn't see it so much as I heard it," Primeau said. "I heard it clink on the back of the net. That was a good feeling. I just hope we don't do this again soon."
Asked if the goal shifted the momentum of a series that saw Pittsburgh dominate in the first two games in Philadelphia, Flyers goalie Brian Boucher said, "I think so. This was a pretty big game."
A long, long one, too. The game ended at 2:35 a.m. EDT, exactly seven hours after it started, with more than one-third of the 17,148 fans still in the stands.
"Guys were out there fighting and clawing and scratching and hacking and spitting and slashing," Penguins forward Matthew Barnaby said. "After a while, you went past the point of exhaustion. Then you got a second wind and a sixth wind and a ninth wind."
The only longer games were in the 1930s. Detroit beat the Montreal Maroons 1-0 in an overtime that lasted 116 minutes, 30 seconds on March 24, 1936, and Toronto beat Boston 1-0 in an overtime that lasted 104 minutes, 36 seconds on April 3, 1933. The Flyers-Penguins overtime lasted 92 minutes, 1 second.
"After a while, guys were saying, what period is this? The sixth, no, it's the eighth," Tugnutt said. "Your mind starts playing tricks on you."
It became the longest game in Penguins history with 44 seconds left in the fourth overtime. The previous longest was the Penguins' 3-2 victory over Washington on April 24, 1996, a game ended by Petr Nedved's goal with 45 seconds left in the fourth overtime.
"They were exhausted, we were exhausted," Flyers coach Craig Ramsay said. "It was really an incredible effort by both teams. Somebody was going to get a bounce at some point of time and, luckily for us, it was us."
Alexei Kovalev, one of the Penguins' most dangerous but enigmatic players, did in Game 4 what he nearly did Tuesday -- give the Penguins the early lead.
Kovalev, the last player off the ice during the Penguins' morning skate, powered a slap shot from the high slot past Boucher's glove 2:22 into the game. Boucher, a rookie, did not allow another goal, stopping 57 of 58 shots.
Kovalev caught the puck off Robert Lang's stick with his hand and adeptly directed it to his stick for his first goal in the Penguins' nine playoff games this season.
The Penguins were 4-0 in the playoffs when scoring first, but they couldn't sustain their early offensive momentum and, caught up in an unaccustomed defensive game, finally lost the lead at 4:47 of the third.
The Flyers, scoreless on their first 16 power plays of the series, finally scored on their 17th. Daymond Langkow won a faceoff in the Penguins' end that went to Eric Desjardins, whose slap shot from the point was redirected into the net by John LeClair just as he was losing his balance in the slot.
LeClair's stick was pointed in the air when he shot, and the goal was reviewed to determine if the stick was above the crossbar when he redirected it. However, the replay judges said the video was inconclusive, and did not overrule it. The puck apparently hit defenseman Bob Boughner's stick before deflecting off LeClair's helmet and past Tugnutt.
"I thought it was no goal," Tugnutt said. "He [LeClair] is 6-foot-3, and his stick was above his head."
As so often happens in long playoff games, each team took turns dominating the offensive play in overtime.
The Flyers got nearly all of the good chances in the first overtime, with Langkow missing off the crossbar with 30 seconds gone.
The Penguins subsequently had nearly all of the better chances in the second overtime, with Kovalev missing off the right post at 1:40 -- exactly the same shot he missed in the Flyers' 4-3 overtime victory in Game 3.
The third overtime featured a rarity -- three power plays, two by Pittsburgh, but neither team could score. The Flyers had six shots during their power play and 13 in the third overtime. There were no other power plays in any of the overtime periods.
By the fifth overtime, the action slowed so that it resembled a minor league game. Both teams had trouble merely clearing the puck, so long stretches often were played at either end.
Jaromir Jagr, the offensive star of the first three games of the series with five goals, was clearly off his game. He missed the Penguins' pregame skate, complaining he did not feel well, and was so fatigued at times he could barely stand on his skates, yet still played 59 minutes, 8 seconds -- or nearly a full 60-minute regulation game.
The longest previous Flyers overtime playoff game was a two-overtime victory over St. Louis on April 16, 1968.