In what may have been the most exhilarating finish of the season, the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in overtime on Tuesday night. The Flyers goal scorers were Scott Hartnell (x2) and Claude Giroux.
The Flyers looked slow and sluggish in the first four minutes of the game, allowing the Blackhawks to take the lead less than three minutes after the puck dropped. As Patrick Sharp charged to the net, the Flyers defensemen and back-checking forwards got lost deep in their own zone. Andrew Shaw found himself wide open in front of the net and put the puck past Ray Emery. Only 1:22 later the Blackhawks extended their lead. The Flyers once again found themselves running around in the their own zone and Jonathan Toews got the puck to a wide open Duncan Keith. Keith blasted a slap shot that went right through Ray Emery’s legs. Though the first goal was clearly the result of a coverage breakdown, the second goal was on Emery. He was not screened and the puck was not deflected. There is no excuse for allowing goals like that.
In the minutes following the Hawks second goal the Flyers began to turn play around. Scott Hartnell got the Flyers on the board 5:48 into the period off of a shot from behind the net. Hartnell threw the puck out from behind the net and it ricocheted off of Marcus Kruger’s skate and into the net. After that goal, the Flyers controlled the rest of the period. In the final four minutes Scott Hartnell was able to score a tying goal. Matt Read pinned the puck against the boards behind the Chicago net. Giroux skated by Read, took the puck, and fed it out to Hartnell whose blazing wrist shot beat Raanta.
The second period was played much tighter than the first. Neither team had an abundance of chances and neither team stuck out as having controlled play. The Blackhawks out shot the Flyers 11-6, but the two teams skated into the intermission tied at two.
The Flyers came out and dominated the third period. They out shot the Blackhawks 14-5 (shot attempts were 26-13 in favor of PHI) and hit the post three times (by my unofficial count). They had a goal that was disallowed due to a Vincent Lecavalier high stick. The call was a good one, but it added to a growing fear that the Flyers, despite their territorial domination, would not be able to find the winning goal. With 6:08 remaining in regulation the emotions of the hard fought battle boiled over and Wayne Simmonds fought Bryan Bickell. Bickell won the fight (he has a big size advantage on Simmonds) and they both sat the rest of regulation.
Most of the overtime period was back in forth with each team generating chances here or there but neither team maintaining pressure. Then, in the final seconds, this happened:
-Claude Giroux is a man on a mission. He now has taken over sole possession of 4th place in the NHL scoring race with 71 points in 68 games. I know that I am biased, but he needs to be considered for the Hart Trophy. And, of course, how can you vote against that flow?
-Sean Couturier did a fine job once again going up against one of the leagues best players. On this night he held Jonathan Toews to one assist. For much of the game Toews was almost a non-factor.
-It is hard not to start believing in this team. The Flyers have now beaten the Penguins twice and the Blackhawks once over their last three games. I’ve said before that they are not true contenders this year, but games like these last three are starting to make me wonder.
-After an emotional win like this, it will be easy for the Flyers to overlook the Dallas Stars on Thursday. That would be a huge mistake.