BOSTON - It's probably not possible to erase seven mostly frustrating months in the span of 2 1/2 frantic, high-pitched hours, yet Scott Hartnell came awfully close.
Until the Flyers' historic, come-from-behind 4-3 win Friday over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden - a victory that completed a stunning comeback from a three-games-to-none deficit - Hartnell was identified more by his long, curly red mane than his scoring prowess.
That's not how it's supposed to be for a handsomely paid left winger with a long-term contract.
Hartnell, who had 54 goals the previous two seasons, had only 14 in 81 games this season, and had gone 21 consecutive games without turning on the red light until he put one past Boston goalie Tuukka Rask in Game 5.
Most of the hard times can be washed away with a few big moments in the most significant game of a season, and that's what Hartnell did. He had a goal early in the second period that pulled the Flyers to within 3-2, and yanked the momentum from the Bruins for pretty much the rest of the night.
Hartnell's goals typically result from his willingness to park in front of the net and look for tip-ins and rebounds. But on this goal, he swooped in and patiently waited for Rask to commit. Hartnell then lifted a pretty backhander over the goalie from a tough angle.
"That first period, we didn't have any sustained pressure, no cycles at all, but we were able to get some time and space on that play," Hartnell said. "I had a lot of time to kind of control and just popped it in the net."
Afterward, Hartnell was reluctant to call his goal a momentum changer, but the Flyers dominated the rest of the second period after Boston seemed on the cusp of blowing them out in the first.
"I don't know what their mind-set was, obviously, but when we got a goal late in the first period, it gave us a little bit of confidence and we came in here [the locker room] and we stayed together," Hartnell said.
"I think we were a little tentative in the first period. We got that goal, and a couple shifts later, Danny B [Briere] got that next goal, and we knew right there. It was an unbelievable feeling."
Less than six minutes later, Hartnell saw Briere skating deep into the Bruins' end, slipped him a pass, and watched Briere tie the score, 3-3.
On this night of redemption for Hartnell, his goal eased the sting of a high-sticking penalty against him early in the first period, a penalty that led to a power-play goal by Michael Ryder that gave the Bruins the game's first score.
Shortly afterward, another high-sticking call, this one on Briere, led to Milan Lucic's power-play goal that made it 2-0. Not long after Lucic's goal, Hartnell took a hard hit from defenseman Johnny Boychuk in front of the Flyers bench that left him hunched over in pain.
In short, his night was not off to a promising start.
"We talked before the game how we wanted to stay out of the box, and lo and behold, we go out and take two high-sticking penalties and we're down, 2-0," Hartnell said.
The roar from the crowd shook the TD Garden walls when Lucic made it 2-0, and Hartnell couldn't help but feel he had aided the enemy.
"Obviously, home crowd, they're fired up, Game 7," Hartnell said with a smile. "They [the Bruins] didn't disappoint them."
Asked how far his big game and the Flyers' remarkable comeback went toward redeeming his disappointing season, Hartnell said, "You can't totally redeem yourself, but right now, we're in the Eastern Conference finals against Montreal. And we're feeling pretty confident."
Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or email@example.com.