Sports Uncovered: Brian Boucher on playing goal during the ‘Marathon on Ice’

NHL.com

What’s it like to be a goaltender in the middle of a game that needs five overtimes to be decided?

Sweaty. Very sweaty.

That was Brian Boucher’s experience during Game 4 of the 2000 Eastern Conference semifinal between the Flyers the Penguins. He played all 151:48 that night, stopping 57 of 58 shots during Philadelphia’s 2-1 win. After Keith Primeau’s goal, the scene back in the dressing room was a messy one.

“When that game ended I took my skates off, I poured sweat out of them,” Boucher told NBC Sports. “I was drenched. I don’t know how much weight I lost that game.”

The story of Game 4 is the subject of the latest episode of NBC Sports Regional Network’s podcast series, Sports Uncovered.

“Marathon on Ice” was released Thursday and features Boucher, Chris Therien, Keith Jones, Ron Tugnutt, and Bob Boughner.

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

The Flyers entered Game 4 down 2-1 in the series. They almost faced a 3-0 deficit if not for Andy Delmore’s overtime goal in Game 3. That gave them confidence heading into a crucial game.

“I don’t think we could have ever prepared for what was to come in Game 4,” Boucher said.

But any sense of momentum on the Flyers’ side quickly dissipated after Alexei Kovalev’s goal 2:22 into the game. The Penguins were ahead until early in the third period when John LeClair tied it, setting the stage for a long night. And we wouldn’t be talking about this game 20 years later if Daymond Langkow’s shot 30 seconds into the first overtime had gone in and not hit the post.

No pressure for Boucher

For Boucher, he was a rookie who took over the No. 1 job from John Vanbiesbrouck during an eventful season. The 1999-2000 campaign was one that featured Eric Lindros’ issues with concussions and Bobby Clarke; head coach Roger Neilson stepping away following a cancer diagnosis; and the franchise reeling from the deaths of broadcaster Gene Hart and defenseman Dmitri Tertyshny.

Now he was in the middle of a crucial moment in the Flyers’ season. A loss would create a mountain to climb. A win could help push them towards a series comeback. Facing what he was, Boucher didn’t feel any nerves as the overtime periods went on.

“I think you just get focused and you get in a zone,” he said. “I felt like as that game went on the game seemed to slow down and it probably did because guys were tired, and I think the quality of the game wasn’t there. Having it be a situation where next goal wins, there is pressure. I think that pressure is always there, but you’re not thinking about it consciously — at least, I wasn’t. I really felt dialed in and I felt like I had to focus on the next shot, the next save all the time.”

The overtimes kept ending with no winning goal. Despite facing a 3-1 deficit with a loss, it wasn’t a tense Flyers dressing room. With the number of characters on the roster — Therien, Jones, Craig Berube, Rick Tocchet — the mood was light. Somebody end this thing already! was a light-hearted rallying cry.

Between soaked skates, multiple undershirts, and unknown weight loss, it was quite a night for Boucher in goal. The amount of hockey played took a toll on his body in-game.

“I was cramping up bad to start that eighth period,” he said. “I remember I was scraping my crease and I had my stretching routine that I did, and I couldn’t do it because I was afraid to seize up. I wouldn’t ever want to go through a game like that ever again.”

Keeping the fluids flowing

Recovery for Boucher was mostly about staying hydrated. He found himself more thirsty than hungry when he played, and Gatorade and Pedialyte helped him replenish his fluids.

Finally, at 12:01 of the fifth overtime, and at around 2:35 a.m. ET, Keith Primeau, acquired that season for Rod Brind’Amour, cut back on Darius Kasparaitis and wired a shot by Ron Tugnutt, ending the third-longest game in NHL history.

“I saw it perfectly,” Boucher said. “I felt like he had made that move a couple of times in that series or I’d seen that move a lot where he goes to the outside and cuts into the middle on his forehand. Sometimes the puck would jump over his stick and it just didn’t work out. In this one, he cut right in and all I heard was clunk and I knew once it made that clunk sound that it was over. It wasn’t a ping. If it’s a ping, it’s the crossbar, but it was distinct. It was clunk and I was like Yes!. 

I remember I skated toward the pile by referee Rob Schick as he was skating off and I patted him on the head. I was like Thank, God this is over. What a feeling to come out on the right side of that one.”

There was an extra day off before Game 5, and ultimately that win would propel the Flyers to a six-game series victory.

“I think everybody knew as that overtime was wearing on, you get the feel like this is the series here,” Boucher said. “Either we’re down 3-1 or we got it to 2-2 going home, and we feel a lot better about ourselves after these two games. We knew the importance of it.”

“Sports Uncovered” utilizes exclusive, in-depth interviews with prominent participants, witnesses and experts to explore new, underreported or forgotten aspects of well-known topics centered in each of the NBC Sports Regional Networks markets.

Episodes also cover: Michael Jordan’s NBA return, in-depth looks at Bill Belichick and the late Sean Taylor, the story behind Barret Robbins’ Super Bowl disappearance, and the University of Oregon’s uniform revolution.

Sports Uncovered” is available on the MyTeams app and on every major podcasting platform: Apple, Google Podcast, iHeart, Stitcher, Spotify, and TuneIn.

MORE:
Tocchet, Jones had Marathon at the Movies before Marathon on Ice
Jones’ memento and what we forget from the Marathon on Ice

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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