My five greatest games

Today begins a new chapter as 2011 opens and as I reflected on my past year, I realized a lot of my memories came from some great hockey games that I saw. I thought it would be perfect to think back to the 50 games I’ve been to over the last four seasons (only four seasons because that’s when I was able to afford going to games) and choose which were my top five greatest games.

The games are not ranked, but instead are listed by date.

I would love to hear you’re greatest games, so make sure you leave your list in the comments section!

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Carolina Hurricanes (Dec. 11, 2008)
Philadelphia – 6, Carolina – 5 SO

My first ever live hat trick was in 2008. (Candice Monhollan)

My first ever live hat trick was in 2008. (Candice Monhollan)

This game is a prime example to why I always tell people to never leave a game early, no matter the score. The Flyers entered the third period trailing the Hurricanes 5-1 and half the arena emptied out during the intermission. The hardcore hockey fan I am, I want to see every last second of a game, good or bad. Not to mention I paid a good amount of money to see all 60 minutes (or sometimes more) of a game and I’m not going to rip myself off by leaving. But like I said, the Flyers were 4 goals down going into the last period.

Scott Hartnell was able to score his second of the night just a minute and 42 seconds into the period, perking up the attention of anyone who was remaining inside the Wachovia Center. Then, to the shock of the crowd, Hartnell scored a third goal to claw the Flyers to within two. And to top it off, it was a natural hat trick for Hartnell, and it so happened to be the first hat trick I have ever witnessed in person. At this point, I was just happy that the game would not end in a blowout.

With little over five minutes remaining in the game, Scottie Upshall made the impossible start seeming like a reality. Could they really pull off a comeback and tie this game? The ever clutch Simon Gagne answered that question when he tied the game with 2:44 left and sent the Wachovia in a frenzy.

The Flyers were able to push the game to a shootout where they were able to score twice while Antero Niittymaki stopped both Hurricanes players.

They were able to pull off what many inside the building thought was impossible when they came back from a 5-1 deficit to win the game.

NHL Winter Classic – Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers (Jan. 1, 2010)
Boston – 2, Philadelphia – 1 OT

The Winter Classic was everything I hoped it would be. (Candice Monhollan)

The Winter Classic was everything I hoped it would be. (Candice Monhollan)

No matter what the score could have happened, the 2010 Winter Classic would have made my list. The entire experience was indescribably amazing. It wasn’t just about the game either. It was the whole two days.

New Year’s Eve was spent at Spectator Plaza across the street from Fenway. All the activities kept my friend and I plenty busy and having fun. To make it even better, it starting snowing in the afternoon to turn the whole city of Boston into a winter wonderland. To top it off, we were surrounded, and I mean completely surrounded, by nothing but hockey and hockey people. If you know me well enough, then you know I was in heaven at that point.

Then New Year’s Day came it the weather was PERFECT. It was a cloudy, but also mild enough that you didn’t feel that you would need a coat (and of course, I didn’t wear my coat and I paid the price when the temperature dropped in the third period). As small and cramped as the walkways and the seats were, I didn’t care. I sat in the historic stadium, packed with close to 40,000 people, watching the game and team I loved.

The atmosphere was amazing with Flyers fans, though outnumbered, making themselves as loud as Bruins fans. The dueling “Let’s go Flyers” and “Let’s go Bruins” chants sent chills down my spine. Hearing it on television does no justice to how loud it truly was. The battle between the Flyers and Bruins was intense. It was back-and-forth all three periods with both teams getting so many chances. And because we all know that no one wanted the game to end, former-Flyer Mark Recchi sent the game into overtime with 3:18 left in the game.

The home team got to celebrate though with Marco Sturm‘s goal 1:57 into overtime. It stung a bit to lose the game, but did not ruin the overall excitement of the game.

One of the highlight moments of the day came in the third period when the entire place sang “Sweet Caroline.” I told my friend as we were making the six-hour trek up that I hoped we would have the chance to do it.

Though my seats gave me a terrible view of the game, I still enjoyed every moment of it. I am more proud that I can say I was there. I saw the game. I experienced the magic of hockey outdoors.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers (Apr. 11, 2010)
Philadelphia – 2, New York – 1 SO

It took all 82 games for the Flyers to make it into the playoffs. (Candice Monhollan)

It took all 82 games for the Flyers to make it into the playoffs. (Candice Monhollan)

If I ever hoped for a nailbiter of a game, then I got it on this day. Here it was, Game 82, and both the Flyers and Rangers were fighting for the last unclaimed playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Whichever team won was moving on while the other was sent packing for the summer.

Of course, you can make it more exciting sending the game to overtime, but what’s even more nerve-wracking on the fans? Going to a shootout, which is exactly what happened.

The Flyers and Rangers took a 1-1 tie into a shootout. It was at this point that I was barely breathing. After all the hard work, it now came down to a couple individuals and the goaltender.

Danny Briere goes first…and scores. Erik Christensen goes…and is stopped. The Mike Richards…who is stopped. PA Parenteau gets it up and over Brian Boucher and into the net. Claude Giroux fires a laser behind Henrik Lundqvist.

And now it’s all up to Boucher. Olli Jokinen, who is 40-percent in shootouts over his career, looks to tie it. But Boucher thrillingly won the duel to get the Flyers into the playoffs as the players and crowd exploded into a frenzy.

As Jim Jackson put it, “82 games – and then some – and finally the Flyers can say they are playoff bound for the 14th time in their last 15 seasons. A classic here at the Wachovia Center.”

Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 4 – Philadelphia Fyers vs. Boston Bruins (May 7, 2010)
Philadelphia – 4, Boston – 3 OT

Mark Recchi single-handedly put a dagger into the hearts of Flyers fans. (Candice Monhollan)

Mark Recchi single-handedly put a dagger into the hearts of Flyers fans. (Candice Monhollan)

Once again, another nerve-rattling, nailbiting game. The Flyers were down in the series 0-3 to the Bruins and this game was do-or-die for the Orange & Black.

The Flyers looked to be in control when they took a 3-1 lead in the second period, but the Bruins refused to go away quietly as the fought back to tie the game early in the third.

Ville Leino gave the Flyers their lead back and they were on their way to sending it to a Game 5, but with 31.5 seconds remaining, Recchi silenced the rowdy crowd when he scored.

Now we were going into overtime.

During the intermission before overtime, my friends and I bowed our heads to pray to the hockey gods and they must have been smiling down on us that day.

Gagne, returning to the lineup after being sidelined with a broken toe since the last round, became the hero when redirected the puck right past Tuukka Rask.

This game was the beginning of what became the most amazing and historic comeback in Philadelphia sports history as the Flyers overcame the 0-3 deficit to win in Game 7.

Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4 – Philadelphia Flyers vs. Chicago Blackhawks (June 4, 2010)
Philadelphia – 5, Chicago – 3

The Flyers were back fighting for the Cup for the first time in 13 years. (Candice Monhollan)

The Flyers were back fighting for the Cup for the first time in 13 years. (Candice Monhollan)

It’s the day after my birthday and it’s Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals. You really cannot get much better than that.

I have never, in all the games I have been to, heard the building so loud and seen it so incredibly crowded.

The Flyers were riding high after a win in overtime two nights before and they fed off the crowd early on in the game and took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.

It was not until the third period when the Blackhawks gained some ground on the Flyers and came within one.

But Jeff Carter ended their hopes with his empty-net goal to give the Flyers a 5-3 win and tie the series at 2.

The sea of orange inside the Wachovia was an unreal sight. And the energy and buzz going around the arena was something I had never felt before. Nothing ever quite compares to being able to see a game in the Stanley Cup Finals. The only step left for me will be attending the game when the Flyers win the Cup.


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Categories: Ice Hockey, NHL, Sports

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