PHILADELPHIA---Desperate for a win to avoid going down 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Flyers delivered.
Before a record crowd of 20,297, the largest in the 14-year history of Wachovia Center last night, Claude Giroux redirected a pass from Matt Carle at 5:59 of overtime to give the Flyers a 4-3 victory that cut the Hawks lead in the series to 2-1.
"I think he just loosened up a little bit," said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette of Giroux, 22, who also notched two assists, including a long shot that bounced off Jordan Hendry's skate and right to Ville Leino, who forged a 3-3 tie in the third period just 20 seconds after Patrick Kane's breakaway gave the Hawks their first lead of the game. "We talked about it, just lighten up a bit, there's a lot of work, it is the Finals, but in the same sense you can't tighten up. Just let it roll. I think he took that advice, he was smiling all day, and played a great game."
Each of the three games had been decided by a goal, with the Hawks winning 6-5 and 2-1 at the United Center. Game 4 is here tomorrow night. "We wake up and we know we have to hold serve at home," said Laviolette. "I don't think the guys wanted to come back again from 3-zero," said Giroux, referring to the remarkable comeback in the Eastern Conference semifinals, when the Flyers overcome a 3-0 lead and topped the Bruins in Game 7
Giroux's ninth goal of the post-season goal broke the Hawks' streak of seven straight playoff wins on the road, and lifted the Flyers to an 8-1 record at home. "I was just trying to get a stick on it and it trickled in," said Giroux, who recalled that a friend had texted him yesterday afternoon, waking him up and predicting that he would score the OT winner. I said, 'You're crazy.'... With 10:29 left in the second period, Dustin Byfuglien slashed the stick out of Chris Pronger’s hands in front after Pronger crosschecked him from behind. Thirty-four seconds later, Pronger’s shot from the left point was tipped down by Scott Hartnell and partially blocked by Niemi, but the puck tricked toward the right post and, on end, barely crossed the line at 9:55 before Niklas Hjalmarsson swiped it away and play continued. At the next stoppage at 8:33, a video replay awarded the goal.
Last night, the Flyers, who outshot the Hawks 15-4 in the third, almost ended it with just 5:02 gone in the extra session. Simon Gagne's shot from the left side hit Dave Bolland, went off the post and across the goalline before Antti Niemi covered up with his glove. But a video review confirmed the ruling on the ice. It was the second time that the cameras had to determine whether the Flyers had scored.
The Blackhawks, who haven’t scored a power play goal in this series, were 0-for-3 and had outplayed the Flyers at even strength for the first forty minutes. But the Flyers connected on two of their three power plays and the score was knotted at two after 2. The Flyers had leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but the Hawks fought back, with Brent Sopel tying the game at 17:52 of the second with his slapper from the right point after a faceoff win by John Madden.
Early in the second, with Flyers ahead 1-0 on a power play goal from Danny Briere, his 11th of the post-season, defenseman Duncan Keith, with his second goal of the playoffs, squared the score at 2:49 on a slap shot from the point that deflected off Jeff Carter and past Leighton. It was a fast-paced game, starting with the first half of the first period, which was played with few stoppages. Niemi was forced to make leg saves on Darroll Powe, Carter and Gagne, the best scoring chance for the Hawks came when Kane banged a rebound off the left post with just over seven minutes left.