WASHINGTON Philadelphia Flyers coach John Stevens was so excited about Game 7 against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals that he skipped the team bus and took the 40-minute walk from the hotel to the rink.
Stevens' players were so calm and collected despite seeing a 3-1 series lead evaporate that about a half-dozen gathered for their traditional pregame soccer ball juggling outside their locker room, right near the signs reading, "No ball playing of any kind in this area."
Both approaches paid off, and Philadelphia finally figured out how to put away Washington. Joffrey Lupul netted a rebound during a power play 6:06 into overtime, Martin Biron made 39 saves, and the Flyers avoided a monumental collapse by beating Washington 3-2 Tuesday night in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
"A lot of people thought we were dead. A lot of people," said Flyers forward Danny Briere, whose assist on the winning goal gave him a series-high 11 points. "And probably their side, too, thought, 'We have the momentum. These guys are down. They're not going to get back up.' That was a little bit of an advantage. We got back up from a lot of tough situations this year. We did it again tonight."
And now, a year removed from the NHL's fewest points, a year removed from the worst record in franchise history, the Flyers won a playoff series for the first time since 2004. They will face the top-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the conference semifinals, starting Thursday.
"If you look at our season, it's been ups and downs," said defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who shadowed Ovechkin all night and helped set up Lupul's goal. "We faced a lot of difficulties during the season and this was one of them."
As much as Ovechkin and his Comeback Capitals kept finding ways to climb out of holes a 6-14-1 start, 14th in the 15-team conference at midseason, consecutive victories to tie this series the Flyers showed they could overcome tough situations as well.
"It's a resilient group," Stevens said.
SHARKS 5, FLAMES 3: At San Jose, Calif., Jeremy Roenick didn't come out of semiretirement for just one playoff round.
The veteran San Jose center is only interested in a long run at the Stanley Cup, and he carried the Sharks one step closer Tuesday night.
Roenick had two goals and two assists, including the tying and go-ahead scores midway through the Sharks' four-goal second period in a 5-3 victory over the Calgary Flames in Game 7, finishing their first-round playoff series.
Evgeni Nabokov made 19 saves for second-seeded San Jose in front of a deafening crowd at the first Game 7 in Shark Tank history. After falling behind 2-1 early in the second period, San Jose's formidable talent finally overwhelmed the Flames with four goals in less than nine minutes, chasing goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.The Sharks earned their fourth straight trip to the second round, where they'll face the Pacific Division-rival Dallas Stars.
(Dates and times TBA)
Pittsburgh vs. N.Y. Rangers
Philadelphia vs. Montreal
San Jose vs. Dallas
Detroit vs. Colorado