Work in Sports
PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- The Philadelphia Flyers lost another key contributor to an injury, but they're heading to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in six years.
Mark Recchi and John LeClair each had a goal and an assist as the Flyers stormed to their fourth straight victory, a 2-1 triumph that eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins from the conference semifinals in six games.
After losing the first two games at home, Philadelphia turned around the best-of-seven series with a pair of overtime wins, including a five-overtime triumph on Thursday that ended with Keith Primeau's goal.
Primeau took a crushing open-ice hit from Pittsburgh defenseman Bob Boughner in the opening minute of tonight's game and appeared to lose consciousness. He was carried from the ice on a stretcher and taken to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for precautionary reasons.
"I saw the guy go down," LeClair said. "But you go on and you play the game. I really didn't see the hit. Keith assured us he's OK. That's good to know."
"Bobby really threw up one of his all-timers," said Penguins coach Herb Brooks. "Those checks really set the tempo."
Despite going the entire postseason without All-Star Eric Lindros, the Flyers will face the archrival New Jersey Devils for the right to play for the Stanley Cup, beginning at home on Sunday afternoon.
"It feels great," said Philadelphia goaltender Brian Boucher. "I guess that we've proved everybody wrong. I guess two games don't make a series."
"The loss of Keith Primeau necessitated a lot of guys doing a little extra," Flyers coach Craig Ramsay added. "They all dug down and did it."
The loss ended a turbulent season for Pittsburgh that started with the purchase of the team by Penguins Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux. Coach Kevin Constantine was fired in December and Brooks, his successor, was suspended for one game just over a month later following a much-publicized confrontation with a broadcaster.
The Penguins got hot down the stretch and stunned second-seeded Washington in the first round of the playoffs before ending a 16-game losing streak in Philadelphia in the opener of this series.
But tonight's defeat gave Pittsburgh its first four-game losing streak since January 8-15.
"It's going to hit you later. Right now, you're too tired," said Penguins captain Jaromir Jagr, who played despite a pulled leg muscle. "Every time I started, I felt the pain. We had a chance, we're not perfect. Maybe we thought it was going to be easy. It's never going to be easy. We had chances to be up 3-0 or 3-1."
Like his team, Recchi came alive late in this series. After managing just one assist in the first four games, he had two goals and four assists in the last two, when Philadelphia outscored the Penguins, 8-4.
Tonight, Recchi put the Flyers ahead for good with a power-play goal 11:04 into the first period. Eric Desjardins' shot was stopped but Recchi got to a loose puck off a goalmouth scramble and backhanded it into the net as goaltender Ron Tugnutt was caught at the wrong side.
Recchi also set up LeClair's insurance tally 44 seconds into the second period. Another shot by Desjardins was stopped, but Recchi took the puck behind the net. Tugnutt expected the former Penguin to try a wraparound, but Recchi doubled back and fed LeClair, who had an easy tap-in for his sixth playoff goal.
"The early goal in the second period really hurt us," Brooks said. "Recchi made a nice play, stopped, came up the short side. LeClair, our defense both couldn't grab him early enough."
LeClair also had six points in the last three games.
Boucher, one of two Flyers rookies who excelled in this series, carried a shutout into the third period and finished with 27 saves. He did his best work in the final period, getting his left pad on Pat Falloon's point-blank shot with 12:40 remaining after the puck hopped over the former Flyer's stick on his first chance.
The Penguins averted their first home playoff shutout in 25 years on Rene Corbet's first postseason goal with 9:14 left. Rob Brown centered from the goal line and Corbet got away from defenseman Luke Richardson's check long enough to slide a wrist shot between Boucher's pads.
"They're going to get one," Boucher said. "They made a good play to get the goal."
But that was all the rookie yielded as he made a left skate stop on Jagr's blast from the top of the right faceoff circle with 8:45 to play and stuffed Corbet's wraparound attempt at the right goalpost with 2:40 left.
Seconds later, Boucher hugged the same post to deny Jagr, then covered up during the ensuing scramble.
"Boucher was great in the first, giving us a chance to come out of there with a one-goal lead. And again, he was wonderful late in the game when we needed him," Ramsay said.
Pittsburgh pulled Tugnutt for an extra attacker in the final minute but could not generate a solid scoring chance.
The Penguins were 0-for-12 on the power play in the final four games of the series, while Philadelphia was 4-for-11 in the last three contests.
"The power play was a difference," Brooks said. "They had a three or a four difference in goals. I think that was the thing."