PHILADELPHIA – Claude Giroux didn’t need an official review to know he gave the Philadelphia Flyers life in the Stanley Cup final.
Giroux scored 5:59 into overtime to give the Flyers a 4-3 victory over Chicago in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday night, cutting the Blackhawks’ series lead to 2-1. Game 4 is Friday night in Philadelphia.
Giroux scored on a redirection off Matt Carle’s pass, beating Antti Niemi to decide the third straight one-goal game in the series.
He ended the game moments after Simon Gagne thought he scored the winner, only to have replay officials rule the puck didn’t cross the goal-line.
The game kept going — but not for long.
“I tried to get a stick on it, and it just trickled in,” Giroux said. “Our line started playing well, so any time your line’s going you just play better I think. The whole team just showed up tonight, and we really wanted that win.
“Desperation was the key word, I think. It’s almost do or die.”
The Flyers already rallied to win a series after dropping the first three games to Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinal. While they talked all week about having faith they could do it again, the Flyers won’t have to try.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said Giroux, who has nine post-season goals, was loose all day.
“He was smiling all day, came to the arena and had a great game. Talented kid,” Laviolette said.
The Blackhawks, trying to win their first Stanley Cup title since 1961, had their seven-game winning streak and a seven-game road winning streak both come to an end.
Philadelphia went 1 for 2 on reviewed goals in Game 3— but, oh, how huge that one was for the Flyers in their first Stanley Cup home game since 1997. Scott Hartnell had a no-goal overturned by replay to spark the Flyers to their first Cup win since 1987.
Danny Briere and Ville Leino also scored for the Flyers, helping them win a game they desperately needed to avoid their second 3-0 hole of the playoffs. Michael Leighton made 24 saves for the Flyers.
Giroux’s goal was the only shot in OT for the Flyers. Niemi stopped 28 shots in the third straight thriller in the series.
Duncan Keith, Brent Sopel and Patrick Kane scored for the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks had won 10 of 11 and swept the Western Conference finals to storm into the series busting with confidence. They won two games at home without a point from Kane and had the road success to make them believe they would win twice in Philadelphia. They’re now guaranteed a trip home.
“Right now it looks like they have the momentum in the series,” Kane said. “But if we take Game 4, then we put ourselves in a great position to go back and play in front of our home crowd and hopefully win it there.”
The Flyers were the beneficiary of replay to win this one.
The Flyers heard the goal horn twice on one goal midway through the second period to go up 2-1.
Chris Pronger’s power-play slap shot was deflected by Hartnell, trickled through Niemi and eked past the red line. Blackhawks defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson diving stab at the puck cleared it back onto the nice as the goal horn sounded.
Flyers fans were irate over the blown call as play continued for another 1:42 even as the red light spun like a siren light.
When play stopped, officials reviewed the play. Flyers fans howled in delight and Laviolette watched stern-faced as numerous replays on the big screen showed, in fact, the goal was good.
Referee Bill McCreary skated on the ice and declared, “Upon further review, we have a good goal.”
It seemed the fortuitous type of goal that would shift for good all the momentum toward the Orange and Black.
Not so fast.
The Blackhawks didn’t reel off the second-longest road winning streak in NHL playoff history by wilting when the game got tough.
Sopel blasted a shot past Leighton from inside the point to make it 2-2 — a shot the goalie likely never saw because of an ill-timed screen by Flyers defenceman Lukas Krajicek who was standing in front of him.
Chicago and Philadelphia swapped goals 20 seconds apart to make it 3-3 early in the third. Kane was all alone on a breakaway when he beat Leighton stick side for his first goal of the Stanley Cup final and Chicago’s first lead, 3-2.
Leino revived a suddenly hushed crowd when his rebound off Giroux’s shot tied it 3-3.
“It’s a tough way to lose, especially in OT when you work as hard as you did,” Blackhawks centre Jonathan Toews said. “We had the lead in the third and they kind of came right back and took the momentum away.”
The Flyers seemed determined to win it in regulation and pounded Niemi in the third. He delivered by stopping 14 of 15 shots.
Niemi wasn’t so lucky late in the first.
The Flyers struck first on Briere’s 11th goal of the post-season that simply left mouths agape. Braydon Coburn’s shot bounced off Niemi’s mitt, Hartnell made a blind backward pass to Briere who flipped a shot into the open net to make it 1-0.
The first lucky bounce of the game came courtesy of Keith’s slapper that glanced off Jeff Carter’s stick and sailed into the net to tie it at 1.
The goal was one of the few times the decibel level at the Wachovia Center returned to easy-listening levels. The rocking sellout crowd of 20,297 was the largest ever watch an NHL game in Pennsylvania.
NOTES: The Flyers are 8-1 at home this post-season. … Chicago’s 11 goals have been scored by 10 players.