The Philadelphia Flyers-Pittsburgh Penguins rivalry, also known as The Battle of Pennsylvania is a rivalry in the NHL's Atlantic Division. The rivalry began in 1967 when the teams were introduced into the NHL's "Next Six" expansion wave. The rivalry exists due to divisional alignment, and geographic locations, as both teams play in the state of Pennsylvania. The rivalry exists due to divisional alignment and geographic location, as both teams play in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Flyers and Penguins have met in the Stanley Cup playoffs 4 times in the last 10 seasons from 2008–2018, strengthening the rivalry.
The first meeting between the Flyers and Penguins occurred on October 19, 1967 in the first ever game at the Philadelphia Spectrum. Flyers goaltender Doug Favell stopped all 17 Pittsburgh shots and Bill Sutherland scored the lone goal 2:59 into the 3rd period for a 1–0 Flyers win.
The rivalry was not as strong in earlier years, as the Penguins struggled in the NHL until the arrival of Mario Lemieux in 1984–85. The Flyers achieved just the opposite, winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975. When the NHL realigned divisions prior to the 1974–75 season, the two Pennsylvania teams were moved to separate divisions. The Penguins spent the next seven seasons in the Norris Division and became the Flyers division rivals once again upon joining the Patrick Division in 1981–82.
Arrival of Mario LemieuxEdit
With the arrival of Lemieux in Pittsburgh, the Penguins slowly but surely gained respectability in the league and had begun to shed their image as one of the NHL's perennial doormats. In 1988–89, the Flyers and the Penguins met for the first time in the playoffs in the Patrick Division Finals. Despite the upstart talent on the Penguins roster led by Lemieux against the Flyers' aging core of players, the Penguins blew a 3 games to 2 lead and lost the series in seven games. The Flyers would lose in the to the Montreal Canadiens in six games in the conference final. Neither team would make the playoffs the next season.
Despite the Flyers' victory, the series proved to be a turning point for both franchises. The Flyers fell from grace and missed the playoffs entirely for the next 5 seasons, while the Penguins continued to strengthen their ranks with the additions of Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis and Tom Barrasso among others, and won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992.
Eric Lindros and the 1990sEdit
The rivalry continued during the 1990s with the arrival of Eric Lindros in Philadelphia, which gave the Flyers a counterbalance against Lemieux. But further divisional realignment split the teams up again in 1993–94 and the Penguins spent the next five seasons in the Northeast Division. Lindros and Jagr were tied for the scoring lead in 1994–95, but the Art Ross Trophy was given to Jagr for scoring more goals than Lindros. Lindros won the Hart Memorial Trophy that season as MVP, with Lemieux winning it the following season in 1995–96, with Lindros as first runner-up. The two teams met again in the playoffs, in the 1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Flyers won in five games and Lemieux retired for the first time at the end of the series. After Game 5, Lemieux skated around the ice and received a standing ovation from the Philadelphia crowd. He had previously received a standing ovation from the Philadelphia crowd in March 1993 after returning from radiation treatments.
Perhaps the pinnacle of the Penguins-Flyers rivalry occurred during the 1999–2000 season, when the two teams met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. A season after the Penguins joined the Atlantic Division, the Flyers had won the division and the 1st seed in the East, while the Penguins snuck into the playoffs as the 7th seed. Despite this, the Penguins jumped out to a 2 games to none lead in the series, winning both games in Philadelphia. The Flyers won Game 3 in overtime, but NHL history was made in Game 4. Tied at 1, the game stretched to five overtime periods and set the record for the longest game played in the modern era of the NHL. Keith Primeau's goal at the 92:01 mark gave the Flyers a 2–1 win and a 2–2 split in the series. The outcome energized the Flyers and demoralized the Penguins, as the Flyers went on to win the next two games and the series.
Rivalry in the 21st CenturyEdit
The rivalry between the two teams lost its luster in the years leading up to the 2004–05 NHL lockout as the Penguins struggled on and off the ice, dropping to the bottom of not only the league standings but the attendance rankings as well.
In 2006–07, the Penguins defeated the Flyers in all eight matchups between the two teams, and Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury became the first goalie to defeat a team eight times in a season since 1967–68. The Flyers have swept the season series twice, winning all four games during the 1980–81 season and winning all seven games during the 1983–84 season. During the 2007–08 season the Flyers won five games and the Penguins won three of the games in the season series. The series was highlighted by an 8–2 win by the Flyers and a 7–1 win by the Penguins. The Penguins and the Flyers faced off in the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals, won by the Penguins in 5 games for the Penguins' first-ever playoff series win against the Flyers. A year later in the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals the Penguins beat the Flyers again, winning the series 4–2 on their way to winning a Stanley Cup.
The 2009–10 season saw a moment of peace in the rivalry with both captains, Flyers' Mike Richards and Penguins' Sidney Crosby winning gold medals as members of the Canadian men's ice hockey team during the Vancouver Olympics. Crosby scored the game-winning overtime goal, often known as "the golden goal."
During the regular season, the Penguins beat the Flyers in the series 5–1, but they didn't meet in the playoffs. With the Penguins losing in 7 games to the Montreal Canadiens in the second round and Flyers coming back from a 3–0 deficit to beat the Boston Bruins in their second round series, it made the Flyers Cinderella march to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 1997, which began on the final day of the season in the first shootout to decide a playoff spot, much easier, though they had to go through one of their own rivals, the New Jersey Devils, in the first round. Unlike the 2008 and 2009 Finals, which featured the Detroit Red Wings and the Penguins, the 2010 Final was a showdown between their respective biggest rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Flyers. Like the Penguins in 2008, the Flyers lost the Finals in six games and on home ice.
In the 2010–11 season opener, Philadelphia traveled to Pittsburgh to open the Penguins new arena, the Consol Energy Center, on October 7. Rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made his NHL debut and spoiled the Penguins party, leading the Flyers to a 3–2 victory. Flyers forward Danny Briere scored the first goal in the new building. With the win, the Flyers reminded the Penguins as to what made their Cinderella march to the Stanley Cup Finals the previous Spring much easier. The next time the two teams meet, on October 16 in Philadelphia, the Penguins will get further reminders when they see a new banner, saying "Philadelphia Flyers, 2009-10 Eastern Conference Champions." On October 11, when the Flyers played their home opener against the Colorado Avalanche, they raised that banner.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 October 19th, 1967 - Flyers First Home Game. flyershistory.net. P. Anson. Retrieved on October 18, 2010.
- ↑ NHL Attendance Leaders - National Hockey League. ESPN.com. Retrieved on 2009-05-15.
- ↑ The Golden Goal at YouTube
- ↑ Compton, Brian. "Double comeback: Flyers rally in Game 7 to advance", National Hockey League, 14 May 2010.
- ↑ Carchidi, Sam. "Playoff Payoff; Giroux's shoot-out goal puts Flyers in postseason", April 12, 2010, p. E1.
- ↑ Carchidi, Sam. "Flyers Dispose of Devils; Gritty team effort finishes off N.J. in five games", April 23, 2010, p. D1.
- ↑ Carchidi, Sam. "Sudden Death; Flyers' unforgettable run ends as Hawks win Cup", June 10, 2010, p. C1.
- ↑ Morreale, Mike G.. "Flyers spoil Pens' debut in new home with 3-2 win", NHL.com, 7 October 2010. Retrieved on October 8, 2010.
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