When the Flyers drafted Claude Giroux four years ago, Bob Clarke, the then general manager of Philadelphia, forgot his name at the podium. Everyone who supports the orange and black will remember Giroux now. Giroux scored 5mins 59secs into overtime to give the Flyers a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday night, cutting their opponents series lead to 2-1, and give themselves a chance to draw level in tonight's Game 4 in Philadelphia.
But despite the setback, the Blackhawks are still confident of getting back on track tonight. Patrick Kane, Chicago's right winger, said: "Right now it looks like they have the momentum in the series. "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." But Villie Leino, who netted the third goal for Flyers, is confident his side have turned the corner.
"It's awesome. We're back in the series now. We've got a lot of self confidence. "It's wonderful. It's going to be awesome Friday. We just have to carry it into Friday." Minutes after the Flyers thought they scored the winner on Wednesday, only to have a video review uphold the on-ice call of no goal, Giroux redirected Matt Carle's pass past Antti Niemi to end the third successive one-goal game in the series.
"I was taking a nap, and my buddy texted me," Giroux said. "He said, 'I have a feeling you're going to score the overtime winner tonight.' I texted back and said, 'You're crazy.' I'm going to call him now. It's obviously a big goal." Clarke, who led the Flyers to their only two championships in 1974 and 1975, blanked on Giroux's name after the team chose him with the 22nd overall pick in the 2006 NHL entry draft.
It was Clarke who scored Philadelphia's last overtime goal in the finals, netting it against Boston in Game 2 of the 1974 series. Giroux is making quite a name for himself with nine goals in the play-offs after tallying 16 in the regular season. If Giroux keeps this up and the Flyers win the Cup, he will be revered by the Philadelphia faithful the way Clarke, Bernie Parent, Reggie Leach and other heroes who played for the Broad Street Bullies in the 1970s were.
"I didn't really care," Giroux said about Clarke's blunder. "I thought it was pretty funny." Looking to rally from a deficit for the second time in the play-offs, the Flyers had plenty of confidence despite losing the first two games in Chicago. They came back from a 3-0 hole to beat the Boston Bruins in the semi-finals. "Like I said this morning, 2-0 for us is comfortable," Peter Laviolette, the coach, said. "We're OK with that. We know how to battle through it."
The Blackhawks remain two wins shy of their first championship since 1961 after having a seven-game winning streak and a seven-game road winning run ended. Moments before Giroux scored, Simon Gagné nearly ended it but the replay officials ruled the puck did not cross the goal line. That made Philadelphia one for two on the video reviews. Earlier in the game, Scott Hartnell had one overturned by replay to spark the Flyers to their first cup win since Game 6 of the 1987 finals against Edmonton.
Danny Briére and Leino also scored for the Flyers, helping them win a desperation game in which Michael Leighton, their goalie, made 24 saves. Giroux's goal was the only shot in overtime for the Flyers. Niemi stopped 28 shots in the third thriller in the series. Duncan Keith, Brent Sopel and Kane scored for Chicago. Briere got his 11th goal of the playoffs late in the first to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead, before Duncan Keith levelled the scores for the Blackhawks.
The Flyers went up 2-1 when Chris Pronger took a slap shot from just inside the blue line that deflected off Hartnell and trickled past Niemi, but defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson poked it out of the net and play continued for another 1:42 even though the red light went on. Sopel blasted a shot past Leighton from inside the point to make it 2-2. Kane put Chicago ahead for the first time, before Leino levelled the scores to take it to overtime, where Niemi withstood a flurry of shots in the third, stopping 14 of the 15 shots he faced to send it to overtime. * AP