PHILADELPHIA – While the Blackhawks celebrated, the Flyers waited hopelessly on the ice.
The official call came quickly and just like that, it was over.
One of the most remarkable post-season runs in sports history ended Wednesday night when Philadelphia lost 4-3 in overtime to Chicago in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Patrick Kane scored 4:10 into the extra period to give the Blackhawks their first championship since 1961, ending the longest active drought in the NHL.
It took a few minutes for the loss to sink in, because the goal lamp didn’t light up and the play was reviewed.
But the Flyers were out of breaks.
“It’s tough right now,” forward Jeff Carter said. “In the long run, everyone should be proud of what we did this year. We overcame a lot of adversity.”
Chris Pronger, Mike Richards and the seventh-seeded Flyers overcame tremendous odds just to get this far. That’s little consolation for a franchise that hasn’t won a championship in 35 years.
Since the Broad Street Bullies captured consecutive titles in 1974-75, the Flyers have lost six straight times in the finals.
No one could’ve expected them to make it here just a few months ago, when they were 14th in the 15-team Eastern Conference. The Flyers were favourites to reach the finals in the pre-season, but they underachieved early and it ended up costing coach John Stevens his job.
Peter Laviolette took over and they slowly started to come together, despite numerous injuries to key players and all their goalies. Still, the Flyers needed a shootout victory over the New York Rangers in the regular-season finale just to get into the playoffs. Then it took a historic comeback in the second round against Boston to keep the run going.
The Flyers lost the first two games of the finals in Chicago, but won the next two at home. After a 7-4 loss in Game 5, they forced overtime in Game 6 when Scott Hartnell scored with 3:59 left in regulation.
But there would be no overtime stars for Philadelphia.
“It stings, it hurts,” Hartnell said. “It will be in the back of our heads for a while.”
A sellout crowd showed their appreciation for Philadelphia’s incredible run. They stood and chanted “Let’s Go Flyers!” while players shook hands.
With journeyman Brian Boucher in the net, the Flyers knocked off New Jersey in five games in the first round. Then they staged one of the greatest comebacks in sports history by rallying from both a 3-0 series deficit and a 3-0 hole in Game 7 to beat the Bruins.
That set up a No. 7 vs. No. 8 Eastern Conference final against Montreal, which beat Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington and the defending Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the first two rounds.
Behind three shutouts by Michael Leighton, who replaced an injured Boucher during the previous round, the Flyers eliminated the Canadiens in five games to reach the finals for the first time since 1997.