Whoooohooooo!!!!! Claude Giroux, in overtime, wins it for the Flyers.
What a great game, as the Flyers cut the series lead in half with a 4-3 victory. For the third straight game, hockey fans had one hell of a show to watch. Back and forth scoring, lots of great hitting, and a little bit of rough stuff to boot. Once again, the Briere-Hartnell-Leino line led the way for Philly, while Kane finally showed up to play.
The Flyers came out hungry, keeping the puck in Chicago’s zone for long stretches. The ‘Hawks did a good job though of getting in front of shots, tipping passes, and not making Niemi do a ton of work. Then the tide turned, with Chicago getting most of the chances for a few minutes. Finally, late in the first, after a Hossa slashing penalty, the Flyers got on the board. Niemi wasn’t able to glove a Coburn shot, Hartnell grabbed the rebound to the right of the net, spun while falling, passed it to Briere, and he sent the disc home.
Chicago tied it up early in the second on a lucky bounce. Kane sent a pass to the point where Duncan Keith unloaded a shot that hit Carter’s stick. As Leighton went down, the puck went up, and we were right back to where we began. Flyers took the lead right back on a ridiculous series of plays about 7 minutes later. First, Pronger got away with a blatantly obvious cross-check on Byfuglian. Instead, Big Buff slashed and broke Pronger’s stick, and got called for it. As the Flyers set up shop, Hartnell redirected a Pronger shot that went past Niemi, barely trickled in, but was pulled out of the net before the refs saw it. The horn went off, fans cheered, but play continued. It was another 90 seconds before there was a whistle, and upon video review the goal was awarded, time added to the clock, and the lead re-established.
No matter how well the Flyers played, the ‘Hawks answered right back. Before period’s end, a Sopel slapshot found it’s way through a screen and inside the far post to tie things up again. It started to seem that the Flyers would be working their asses off for a goal, and Chicago could answer back almost at will. In the third, I felt a dagger in my heart as Kane finally cracked through. A turnover in Chicago’s zone lead to Toews grabbing the puck, and springing Kane on a breakaway. Too fast to catch, he was in alone, and fired a shot past a frozen Michael Leighton. The building grew quiet, depression set in across the tri-state area. Would we be down 3-0 on a series again? NO!
Ville Leino, possibly the greatest random pick-up in Flyers history answered back for the Orange and Black just 20 seconds later. Giroux’s shot across was tipped in on Niemi, who was already moving across the crease and barely stopped the defelction. Leino swooped in to bang the rebound home and send us back into a frenzy. Once again, the Flyers kept the pressure up throught most of the third, looking for the winner. Chicago too had their chances, but nobody converted. My heart skipped a beat as Duncan Keith was wide open for a one-timer in the last few minutes. Leighton turned it aside, and we soon got to overtime.
A few minutes in, after Keith turned it over in his own end, Gagne surprised Niemi with a shot that went past him, hit the far post, and traced the goal line. The horn went off, the fans went nuts, and I jumped around my living room like a fool. Only the puck was not in. Niemi sprawled, on top of it, it remained loose, and then was poked into the net. However, the refs blew the play dead as some point before the puck was knocked into the net. Video review confirmed that Gagne hadn’t scored. I have one problem with the play. If the refs knew it wasn’t in, and never waived that it was a goal, why did the play stop? The puck disappeared under Niemi for a brief moment before it was actually poked home.
I think there would be more controversy if the Flyers didn’t come through a few minutes later. Giroux carried the puck through the middle, dished it to Briere on the left, and went to the net. Briere dropped it to Carle, who immediately recognized that Giroux was alone in front. He sent it a few inches off the ground, where Giroux deflected it under Niemi’s arm and in. And once again, the celebration was on!
- Leino was consistently the best player on the ice. He created a ton of chances with his speed and balance. He cycles the puck very, very well, rarely losing it. Of course, the clutch goal to tie it after Kane scored was awesome. And finally, his haircut-beard combination is one of the best I’ve ever seen.
- Giroux was a bit more noticeable too. This was easily his best game of the Finals. Before the goal, we saw a bit more of what we’re used to. He dangled, he created turnovers in the offensive zone, he played pretty solid D. We’ll need more of him, as he is not usually playing against top notch defensemen.
- Kane also showed up finally. Even before his goal, he had a ton more chances throughout this game than he had in the first 2.
- Chicago hit a pair of posts after Leighton was cleanly beat. Thank you, twine!
- Pronger and the Flyers looked winded as time ran out in regulation. Chicago looked like they had fresher legs, and created few chances. The break couldn’t come soon enough. However, once OT started, the guys looked good again. All those hard skating sessions we heard about when Laviolette took over seem to be paying off.
- After Game 2 there was a lot of talk about Pronger taking pucks at the final whistle. What a non-story for the media to cover. Ben Eager got mad, they talked shit, and that’s that. I hate when this kind of thing gets more coverage than a simple footnote.
So now, we await game 4. A win gives us a ton of confidence heading back to Chicago, and more importantly, a whole new series. A loss, and well, we’re back in a corner facing imminent death, with a slight possibility of survival. Here’s hoping to a clean slate!
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