For the third-consecutive season, the Stanley Cup Final features an Original Six team (Chicago) against an Expansion Six team (Philadelphia), though it's a matchup the League has not yet seen play for all the marbles.
During the regular season, the Flyers and Blackhawks met only once, on March 13, while Philadelphia was battling for a playoff berth and the Blackhawks were chasing San Jose for the top seed in the West. In the end, Philly's desperation to reach the postseason, aided by a Saturday afternoon sellout crowd of 19,858 at Wachovia Center, trumped Chicago's quest for a higher seeding.
After 40 minutes of scoreless play, Chicago and Philadelphia erupted for a wild 5-goal third period that saw the Flyers blow a lead, but rally for a late come-from-behind 3-2 win.
Defenseman Chris Pronger scored the winning goal -- his ninth of the season -- with only three seconds remaining in the third period. Pronger drove the net to tip home a pass from Claude Giroux over goalie Cristobal Huet's pad.
"I think (Giroux) saw me early on when I was crossing the blue line that I was going wide," Pronger said. "He was trying to get it somewhere near me where I can whack at it toward the net. He made a great pass, it landed flat and I was able to get it up over his pad."
Only 2:01 earlier, Scott Hartnell scored for the Flyers to make the score 2-2. Goaltender Michael Leighton (39 saves) and Kimmo Timonen assisted on the goal. It was Hartnell's first goal in 13 games, and his 13th of the season.
"It seems like it's been forever since I contributed," Hartnell said. "I think with about 10 minutes to go there, before they scored their second goal, I thought, 'Jeez, it's going to be another game without a goal.' You think negative thoughts when you're slumping."
Before mounting the comeback, the Flyers led 1-0 on Simon Gagne's goal 1:18 into the third period. Chicago's Kris Versteeg scored the equalizer on the power play at 3:01, and Marian Hossa, who assisted on Versteeg's goal, put the Blackhawks ahead 2-1 with his 20th of the season at 12:51.
"Yeah, I mean it was like bang-bang-bang," Versteeg said. "All of a sudden it was 2-2, then 3-2, and I didn't even know what happened there at the end but we can't be giving that up, especially in the last minute of the game."
Before Versteeg's goal, an apparent goal by Chicago captain Jonathan Toews was waved off for having come after a whistle.
The loss extended Chicago's drought in Philadelphia, where the Blackhawks have not won since Nov. 9, 1996.
Huet made 31 saves for the Blackhawks.
Contact Rocky Bonanno at firstname.lastname@example.org