When 70 saves isn't enough

2000 Eastern Conference semis, Game 4: Flyers 2, Penguins 1 (5 OT)

Originally Published: December 14, 2009
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Ron TugnuttDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

Many experts consider Ron Tugnutt's performance on this night one of the greatest performances ever by a goalie.

And he lost.

Forget Vinko Bogataj. The real agony of defeat occurs in the NHL playoffs.

In the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2000, cross-state rivals Pittsburgh and Philadelphia met for the critical Game 4 of a series the Penguins led 2 games to 1. The Flyers had lost the first two games at home but won Game 3 in Pittsburgh in overtime.

They would need five overtimes in Game 4 -- it still ranks as the third-longest game in NHL history, surpassed only by two games from the 1930s -- to finally beat Tugnutt.

The Pittsburgh goalie made an astounding 70 saves before Keith Primeau fired a wrist shot for the winner at 12:01 of the eighth period.

"[Flyers backup goalie] John Vanbiesbrouck kept saying, 'This is epic. This is going to go down in history,'" Primeau said after Philadelphia's 2-1 victory. "I think everyone here realizes it was a special night."

Tugnutt said he barely remembered what happened on Primeau's goal. "After a while, guys were saying, what period is this? The sixth, no, it's the eighth," Tugnutt said. "Your mind starts playing tricks on you."

Perhaps not surprisingly, the momentum in the series had shifted. The Flyers won the next two games, although they would lose the conference finals to New Jersey in seven games.

As for Tugnutt, the journeyman netminder -- he had already played for Quebec, Edmonton, Anaheim, Montreal and Ottawa before getting traded to Pittsburgh late in the 1999-2000 season -- left the Penguins after the season, signing with Columbus. The five-overtime epic would prove to be his defining NHL moment; he never played in another playoff series.
--David Schoenfield