Gagne gives Flyers overtime life

Simon Gagne scores the game winning goal in overtime of game 4 to keep the Flyers' hopes alive. (Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer)

Yes, the Flyers live.

They blew a 3-1 lead in the second period -- and they survived. They blew a 4-3 lead with 31.5 seconds in the third period when former Flyer Mark Recchi scored his second goal of the game and his third goal of the series -- and they survived.

Simon Gagne -- playing his first game of the series following surgery to repair a broken toe -- scored at 14:40 of overtime, and the Flyers live for another weekend, beating the Boston Bruins, 5-4.

They still trail the Bruins in their best-of-seven playoff series, 3-1. And it was a game whose films will not be sent to the Hockey Hall of Fame anytime soon. I mean, really -- the late collapse rivals what happened on elimination day last year, when the Flyers blew a 3-0 lead at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But, well, people on life support can’t be choosers, or something. The how really doesn’t matter -- because, if how you played was the determining factor, the Flyers wouldn’t have been trailing by three games to none in the first place.

It isn’t how, but how many. And so it is 3-1, with Game 5 on Monday in Boston.

The first task of the night was to get an early lead. In that, the Flyers failed. They had a couple of great chances -- Claude Giroux shooting wide on a breakaway, and James van Riemsdyk somehow managing to hit a post, or the skate of Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, or both, and not managing to hit an open net. And then, minutes later, it was Mark Recchi, scoring another goal in the series, this one on a rebound after Brian Boucher made a sprawling save.

The goal that put the Flyers back into it came in the last minute of the first period, a terrible goal for Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, a shot from the circle from Danny Briere that Rask saw all the way -- that is, all the way through his legs. So it was 1-1 after the first and there was hope.

Then, in the first few minutes of the second period, the Flyers exploded for a pair of goals. First it was defenseman Chris Pronger, blasting a blue-line shot through traffic. Then it was Giroux, scoring his first goal of the series, swooping in and accepting a pass through the crease from Scott Hartnell. Yes, that Scott Hartnell -- who kicked the puck away from Rask and over to Giroux.

So the lead was 3-1 and the Wachovia Center was suddenly filled with believers again, not merely late-arrivers caught in Phillies traffic. Then came the scary goal, the bad omen goal, the things-that-go-bump-in-the-night goal. Somehow, some way, a puck that was rebounding off of the back boards and back out in front managed to get between the legs of Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher -- and then, even more amazingly, Boucher managed to inadvertently kick the puck into his own net without ever seeing it.

At which point, the believers got very quiet again. And then they got even quieter, 3:49 into the third period, when Milan Lucic deflected in a point shot to tie the game at 3-3. The lead was gone. The end was in sight.

But then Ville Leino deflected in a Pronger wrist shot from out near the blue line at 14:10 of the third period, and it looked as if the Flyers could finally see the finish line -- only to be stopped, cruelly, when Recchi was uncovered to Boucher’s left and did not miss on the short side.

Overtime, then.

And Gagne, in a fairy-tale ending.

And now, everybody has to work on Mother’s Day weekend.