The Philadelphia Flyers need to get some of their comeback mettle back against the New Jersey Devils and fast. Flyers fans like myself have seen great escapes all season, so making a 3-1 rally over the Devils would certainly be the greatest of all. Yet for all of Philadelphia's big comebacks, none were as improbable as the one that the New York Rangers made in their own Game 5 on May 7.
The Rangers have shown up the Flyers all season by sweeping them in six games and winning the division title. So naturally, New York put together a potential season-saving rally that surpassed any Philadelphia comeback this year. Of course, the Rangers weren't on the brink of elimination before their 3-2 overtime win over the Washington Capitals, but they were on the brink of being on life support.
With the series tied at 2-2, the Capitals looked to take a 3-2 lead over a heavy favorite for the second straight playoff series, as they did against the Boston Bruins. Meanwhile, the Rangers tried to avoid falling behind by 3-2 to a heavy underdog for the second straight series, as they did against the Ottawa Senators. But for over 59 minutes, it looked like Washington and New York would repeat their same old postseason formulas.
The Capitals were on the verge of stealing the win and all the momentum on the strength of Braden Holtby's big night. Holtby singlehandedly kept Washington in the game after it was outshot by 17-4 in the first period, but was only outscored by 1-0. Afterward, the Capitals climbed back and took a 2-1 lead going into the final seconds, as the Rangers just couldn't break through regardless of their many opportunities.
However, every improbable comeback needs a spark, no matter how late it comes. This one started when Joel Ward committed a double minor high sticking penalty - although the Rangers only had seconds to capitalize on a 6-on-4 advantage. But that was all they needed as Brad Richards stuffed home the tying goal with 7 seconds left - then Marc Stall ended things in overtime while Ward was still serving the second minor.
In just under two minutes, the Rangers went from being on the brink of elimination to being in total control of their own destiny again. If they go on to win the Stanley Cup - which looks easier on paper with all the other top seeds getting knocked out - this will be placed alongside Mark Messier and Stephane Matteau's conference finals heroics from 1994 in Rangers history.
For all the rallies the Flyers have made all season, none of them came close to this level of drama and importance. At least that hasn't happened yet, as Philadelphia has to make an even more improbable comeback over New Jersey just to stay alive.
Both the Flyers and Rangers were easily expected to square off in the conference finals, yet each team has gotten knocked around along the way. But New York has been much better equipped to handle its adversity than Philadelphia - which has pretty much been the story of the whole season.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and a Flyers fan since the age of eight - who has become quite familiar with the Rangers in that time.
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