Flyers-Penguins: The Top Moments Of The Rivalry

During this decade, hockey fans have been treated to the spice and sizzle of some of the best rivalries in the postseason. Two teams who both call the same state home, the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, are set to meet in the playoffs for the seventh time in their history and the first time since the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals — where Philly defeated the Pens in six games. As of late, its the Penguins — winning back-to-back Stanley Cups — who have had ultimate success while the Flyers have sat and watched. So now with a possible three-peat on the line, the expectations for this series are set to reach even bigger heights.
But before these two teams do wage war, let’s take a look back at some of the top moments from the rivalry.

First Playoff Meeting In 1989

It took 22 years after both teams were established, but the Flyers and Penguins finally met in the postseason for the first time in the 1989 Patrick Division Finals. Both eased their way past round one (Philly beating Washington in six, and the Penguins sweeping the Rangers 4-0), and were on a crash course to see who could get a possible shot at a Cup Final appearance. These two teams — who didn’t know they set the tone for the next 30 years — put on an epic seven-game series (including Mario Lemieux’s 8-point game in game five), with the Flyers coming away victorious 4-1 in the seventh and deciding game giving them the series 4-3. The series was also the first time one of the most polarizing figures of the rivalry, Mario Lemieux, lit the flames for what was to come in the 90’s.

1995 MVP/Art Ross Race: Lindros vs. Jagr

Remembered as the lockout-shortened season, the 1995 race for the Hart Trophy/Art Ross was an all-out battle between Philly’s Eric Lindros and Pittsburgh’s Jaromir Jagr. Through the entire campaign, the two superstars would trade the scoring lead back and forth, making it very hard to figure who would be named MVP when the season finally did finish. When the season did end, both players were tied with 70 points. It was decided, that Jagr be awarded the Art Ross for finishing with three more goals (32) than Lindros’s 29. Lindros would get his recognition being named MVP for leading the Flyers to a division title. This is one of the most deserving moments of the rivalry because if there was a full season played, who knows how much more wild this competition would have been.

Fight for Eastern Conference Supremacy

The Pens-Flyers rivalry reached a fever pitch during the 1995-96 season. Both teams were stacked from top to bottom with Hall of Famers and solid players. That entire year, the teams fought tooth and nail as the top teams in the Atlantic Division. Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and Eric Lindros were all in the top ten in scoring, but it was Lindros and his two linemates — John LeClair and Mikael Renberg, also known as the “Legion of Doom” — that was the difference that put Philadelphia over the top. The Flyers (103) would edge the Penguins (102) by one point for the Eastern Conference crown, despite Pittsburgh having 49 wins to Philly’s 45. It could be said 95-96 was the most memorable season of the rivalry as the teams were neck and neck from the outset.


A Five Overtime Classic

The Pittsburgh Penguins joined the Atlantic Division in the 1999-2000 season, and it was only fitting that they met the rival Flyers in the playoffs for the first time since 1997. The two teams faced off in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The seventh-seeded Pens took the first two games in Philly before the Flyers fought back to win game three in overtime. In the pivotal fourth game, the two teams put on a show for the ages, setting the record for the longest game played in the modern era of the National Hockey League. After three periods and five grueling overtimes, Keith Primeau scored the game-winning goal at 152:01 to win the game and tie the series. After that goal, the Flyers went on to win the series in six games. The moment is the most iconic of any in the 51 years the two teams have met.

Sidney Crosby Arrives

Selected number one overall, Sidney Crosby got his first lick of the Penguins-Flyers rivalry early in the 2005 season. He also got his first look at how he would become one of the most hated figures in Philadelphia sports lore. The 18-year old Crosby made his Pens-Flyers debut on October 14, 2005. The Flyers would defeat Pittsburgh 6-5 in overtime with Crosby recording a goal and assist in the game. Later that year back in Philadelphia, Crosby — who would score the game-winner in overtime on a breakaway to the disgust of the Flyer faithful — found his mouth bloodied from the skate of Flyers d-man Derian Hatcher and took several crushing hits from the rest of Hatcher’s teammates. Those first eight games were just the precursor of the impact that Sidney Crosby would have on the renaissance of the Penguins and the rivalry as a whole.


2008 Eastern Conference Finals

For eight long years, somehow the Pens and Flyers avoided each other in the playoffs. But finally, in 2008, they came together for a chance to go the Stanley Cup Finals as they met for the Eastern Conference crown. This also marked the first time that Sidney Crosby faced off against the Flyers in the playoffs. In a ferocious five games, the Penguins would go on to win the series 4-1, including a 6-0 drubbing in the closeout game. The series win also marked the first time in the rivalry’s history that the Penguins defeated the Flyers in the postseason. The 08′ Conference Final would set the table for the next four years for the two teams, as they would face each other again in the playoffs a year later, and in 2012.

Fight Night Before The Playoffs

Before they went to battle in the playoffs, the final game of the 2011-12 regular season between the Flyers and Penguins was an all-out war. The two were at each other’s necks all season, but things finally reached a boiling point on the last day of the season. Philadelphia would go into Pitt and dominate the Pens 6-3. At the end of the game, all hell broke loose. After a hard open-ice hit, the teams had an all-out melee on the ice and on the benches. Players were fighting and coaches were ready to do the same. While this preceded the crazy series in the playoffs, this moment was the precedent of the intensity and hatred these two clubs had for each other.


2012 Conference Quarterfinals Games 2 and 3

Considered the greatest playoff series between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the 2012 Conference Quarterfinals had everything that made the rivalry so special. A few years before, the Penguins defeated the Flyers in consecutive postseasons (2008, 2009) both leading the Penguins to make their way to the Cup Final and a Cup win in 2009. So the Flyers were out for revenge, and boy did they finally get it. But it was games two and three that melted minds in the hockey universe. In game two, the Penguins went up 3-1 early, then made it 4-2. Philly would then score six more times over the final 40 minutes for another stunning 8-5 win. The following game was a barnburner. In that game three, the Flyers and Penguins traded goal for goal, before Philly eventually ran away with the game, putting another eight spot on the big board in an 8-4 victory. Those wins reflected a changing of the guard in the rivalry and were the lone bright spot in the decade for Philadelphia.

2015 Wild Affair

Many who saw this game described it as a heavyweight fight. Almost a pay-per-view type stage and atmosphere, the Flyers and Penguins duked it out in the middle of January in what was a throwback to their memorable games of the 90’s. The game, featured one ejection, dirty hits, fists flying, and 93 combined penalty minutes. In front of a rabid crowd, this regular season classic would need to be settled in overtime. Philly’s Claude Giroux gave the Flyers the last laugh scoring at the 3:57 mark of overtime to give the Flyers the 3-2 win. This game remains a kind reminder that the stakes are always raised and continue to be as each year passes.

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