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Flyers want third-period effort for all of Game 3

by Shawn P. Roarke
CHICAGO -- The Philadelphia Flyers are in desperate need of answers as they prepare for Wednesday's Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final (8 p.m. ET, Versus, CBS, RDS). They believe those answers, surprisingly, lie in the game film from Monday's 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Several players said after Monday's loss -- a loss that put Philadelphia in an 0-2 hole that has been virtually impossible to rally from in the history of the Final -- that the third period of that game was Philadelphia's best of the series and that it contains the secrets that will allow the Flyers to once again fight their way back into a series some are already assuming is a done deal.

"We're still confident," goalie Michael Leighton said. "We played the third period like we should. We dominated the third period and we couldn't get a bounce and get a goal. If we put 60 minutes together like that, we are confident we can beat any team."

What is it about the final 20 minutes of the last game that has Philadelphia so excited about the next 60 minutes of the best-of-7 series?

Well, the numbers certainly inspire confidence. Philadelphia outshot Chicago 15-4 in the third period and outscored the Blackhawks 1-0 as they tried desperately to erase the 2-0 hole created by Chicago's two-goals-in-28-seconds outburst in the dying minutes of the second period.

But even more important than the numbers was the attitude Philadelphia displayed during the third-period domination.

The Flyers found their success by skating hard and forechecking even harder. When the Flyers are at their best, they pursue the puck with a zeal that puts defenses on its heels and forces mistakes.

In the first two periods, Chicago committed just five turnovers. In the third period, the beleaguered Blackhawks coughed up the puck another five times.

"That's the way we have been winning playoff games," defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "That's us. We can skate and create turnovers by skating and I thought in the first couple of periods I don't think we skated as good as we can."

But, it wasn't just getting in hard on the forecheck and forcing mistakes. It was also what Philadelphia did with the opportunities Chicago presented as it wilted in the face of Philadelphia's unrelenting pressure.

Simply, Philadelphia shot the puck whenever possible from wherever possible. After managing just three shots in the first period, Philadelphia had 30 in the final 40 minutes.

In the third period, Simon Gagne had his only three shots of the game, including a knuckleball on a power-play opportunity that fluttered past Antti Niemi for Philadelphia's lone goal. Ville Leino and Danny Briere also recorded their only shots of the game in the third period. Timonen had three of his team-high five shots in the final period.

"I thought we were way too conservative in the first two periods," Briere said. "We didn't give them much, but that is not our style of hockey. We didn't forecheck, we didn't create much offensively. We didn't spend much time in their zone and, obviously. When they take the lead they are going to play a little more passive and they gave us a chance. But, I mean, the first two periods were way too conservative for what we are used to seeing."

Still, the Flyers know they will have to do more than what they did in Monday's third period.

"We're still confident. We played the third period like we should. We dominated the third period and we couldn't get a bounce and get a goal. If we put 60 minutes together like that, we are confident we can beat any team."                       -- Michael Leighton
Briere would like to see Philadelphia be smarter -- and more dangerous -- with their shot selection. He believes that Philadelphia helped make Niemi look spectacular at times during his 32-save performance by firing from bad angles or refusing to get traffic in front of the Chicago goalie.

Yet, despite the need to refine and restructure its game after losing the two contests in Chicago, Philadelphia believes it can find the right formula and fight its way back into this series, just as they did against the Bruins, forging a comeback for the ages from 3-0 down in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to win in seven games; just the third team in the history of the NHL to pull off such a feat.

"We're certainly not leaving Chicago feeling like we can't win," Briere said. "Both games, I think a bounce here or a bounce there going our way and this series could be tied 1-1. But, we are done 2-0 and we can't change that. We can't look back any more. Just like the Boston series, we have to find a way to move forward and create our own bounces now."

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