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Giroux OT goal lifts Flyers back into Final

by Shawn P. Roarke
PHILADELPHIA – Nothing can shake Philadelphia's belief in itself in this Stanley Cup Final – not the weight of history, not the skill and opportunism of its opponent, nor its own mistakes. 

On Wednesday night, the Flyers overcame that deadly trifecta to somehow fashion a 4-3 overtime victory -- on the strength of Claude Giroux's deflection goal 5:59 into OT -- against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 before a record crowd at the Wachovia Center.


As an even greater testament to Philadelphia's resolve on this night, Giroux's goal came just 57 seconds after the Flyers thought they had won the game on a shot by Simon Gagne. Video replay, however, determined that the shot, which rang off the far goal post, never completely crossed the goal line.

Philadelphia stepped onto the ice Wednesday knowing that only two teams had overcome a 0-2 start on the road in the Stanley Cup Final to eventually raise the trophy in victory. The Flyers also knew they were facing a Chicago team that had won seven consecutive road games.

Yet none of that mattered as the Flyers still believed they would win, despite the long odds of history stacked against them.

"I just had a feeling we were going to win tonight," forward Daniel Briere said. "I remember driving to the rink earlier this afternoon and I just had this good feeling we're going to win; there was absolutely no way we were going to lose this game. It was just that feeling that we were going to do anything possible to get it done."

The Flyers had to have everything possible -- and more -- to get the win that puts them back in a series they now trail 2-1 heading into Friday's Game 4 here (8 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC, RDS).

In Wednesday's game, Philadelphia had to overcome the stigma of coughing up two leads -- on goals by defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Sopel -- and then allowing Chicago to score the go-ahead goal early in the third period on an egregious turnover that turned into the go-ahead goal by Patrick Kane on a breakaway at 2:50 of the third period.

Philadelphia has now blown five leads in the first three games of this series.

Kane's goal took the sails out of the record crowd at the Wachovia Center, which was filled to overflowing with 20,297 fans attempting to will the Flyers back into this series after back-to-back one-goal losses in Chicago. It was the biggest crowd not only in Wachovia Center history, but also the biggest crowd to watch an NHL game in the state of Pennsylvania.

Come Thursday, though, at least three times that number of people will say they were part of the Bedlam on Broad Street as they pass along the incredible tale of a team that refuses to admit when enough should be enough.

In fact, Philadelphia's response to the goal by Kane -- which would have broken a lesser team -- defines the supreme will of these Flyers, who beat Boston two rounds ago despite falling into an 0-3 series hole and then trailing 3-0 in Game 7 before winning 4-3.
Ville Leino, a late-season addition, tied Game 3 just 20 seconds after Kane's goal. Briere had given Philadelphia its first lead with five minutes left in the first and Scott Hartnell scored midway through the second for a 2-1 lead. Both goals came on the power play.

"It was nice to come back right away after that (Kane goal) and score, because you think it's over," Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said.

Driving hard to the net, Leino grabbed a fortunate rebound and slammed it past Antti Niemi, who had scrambled to stop a puck that had unexpectedly bounced off the skate of his own defenseman, Jordan Hendry.

"I don't think anyone was deflated at all," said Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger, who has become the emotional barometer of this team.  "We needed to bounce back. There's going to be momentum swings through the course of the game, through the course of the series.

"There's lots of time left. I don't think anybody was panicking or deflated. I think it's a matter of just putting your head down and getting back to work."

Philadelphia never stopped working after Kane's goal, just as the Flyers haven't stopped working all postseason.

Before Giroux's winner, the Flyers outshot Chicago 16-5 -- including a 14-3 margin in the final 17 minutes of regulation. The dominated zone play for long stretches and were finally rewarded with the goal by Giroux, who deflected a point shot from Matt Carle past Niemi.

"I won the faceoff and Kimmo (Timonen) passed me in the middle and passed to Briere on the side, and Matt Carle joined the rush," said Giroux, who said he received a text Wednesday afternoon from a childhood friend predicting Giroux would score the game-winner in OT.  "(Carle)'s a great player and he can see the ice pretty well. I was trying to get a stick on it and it trickled in."

Giroux's goal gave Philadelphia its first playoff OT win in its past five tries, a string of futility dating all the way back to 1974.

Suddenly, the building was jumping, the players were celebrating and the weight of both their past failures and the postseason's daunting history were forgotten -- for at least a few moments.

"It's been going on for a long time," Laviolette said of his team's undaunted responses to adversity. "Like I said this morning, 2-0 (down) for us is comfortable. We're OK with that. We know how to battle through it. We knew how important the game was tonight. Once we wake up tomorrow morning, we know we have to hold serve on home ice.  I think the guys will be fine with that."

On Friday, it will be Chicago's turn to respond to some adversity. Captain Jonathan Toews, who set up Kane's breakaway goal, insists his club will be ready.

"When you come into this game, the series is far from over," Toews said. "We couldn't look ahead to Game 4 or anything beyond tonight. It's tough to lose, especially in OT when you work as hard you did.

"We're not looking past any game right now. Regardless of what the score is in the series, we'll keep getting better and we'll get ready for the next one."

Shift of the game: Philadelphia set the tone early in this game that Chicago would need its best effort to win a third-straight game and that was best epitomized by the sequence on the first goal. Philadelphia refused to quit on a play that saw Chicago goalie Antti Niemi make two stellar saves. Yet Scott Hartnell willed himself to the second rebound, somehow shoveling it while falling down to an open Danny Briere, who slammed it home with 5:02 left in the first period.

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