Thursday June 3rd, 2010

PHILADELPHIA -- Splitting the difference between a frenetic first game and a cautious second match, the Flyers and Blackhawks played a superb and compelling Game 3 that deserved its overtime. By the time Claude Giroux ended the contest at 5:59 of the extra session, giving Philly a 4-3 win, the series' third straight one-goal game seemed only fitting.

The Flyers, who qualified for the playoffs on the final day of the regular season via a shootout against the Rangers and rallied from down 0-3 against Boston, have apparently not exhausted their cache of second and third winds in cutting Chicago's lead to 2-1.

In what was the best game of the Cup final for both teams, the 'Hawks looked like the better squad for 40 minutes, but for the second straight game, generated just four shots in the third period.

"We've been playing from behind," said Flyers forward Scott Hartnell. "The third period's been a pretty good period for us all year long. When our backs are against the wall, we seem to lay it on the line."

The teams traded chances in a spirited overtime before Flyers defenseman Matt Carle spotted Giroux cutting to the front of the net. Carle sent the puck in Giroux's direction and the forward knocked it behind Hawks goaltender Antti Niemi. It was unquestionably the best game of the series for Giroux, who was generating chances and thwarting the 'Hawks with strong defensive play all night.

"I think Claude loosened up a bit," said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. "You have to remember it's the Stanley Cup Final. There's a lot of work, a lot of intensity. There's a lot of competitiveness in the battles. In the same sense, if you tighten it up too much, you seize up a bit. We talked about him just having some fun tonight, coming out and letting everything roll. I think he took that advice because he was smiling all day."

Giroux was quick to credit Carle's half-shot, half-pass that set him up for "obviously the biggest goal of my career. Matt's a great player. He can see the ice pretty well. I was just trying to get a stick on it."

Just a minute earlier, the Flyers nearly ended the contest on a play that produced the second video review of the night. Simon Gagne shot a puck that deflected off 'Hawks forward Dave Bolland and trickled along the goal line behind Niemi before the goalie could cover it. The horn sounded in the arena, but officials reviewed the play and properly decided there was no goal.

That decision evened the score in the video-replay booth to 1 apiece. After the teams traded goals (Philadelphia's Danny Briere and Chicago's Duncan Keith), Hartnell appeared to put the Flyers ahead, 2-1, with a power-play goal midway through the second period.

First, Chris Pronger took a shot from the high slot. Hartnell deflected the blast off Niemi's body, and it then trickled behind him, rolling to Niemi's left post. After the puck tapped the post, Niklas Hjalmarsson tried to pull it off the goal line and play continued until 8:23 remained in the period. After a lengthy delay, the crowd, which was able to watch a replay on the scoreboard, began chanting "Goal, goal, goal" and was soon rewarded for its fervor, as officials confirmed the puck indeed had crossed the line. The goal counted and the intervening time that had ticked away would go back on the clock. In essence, the game already had 1:48 extra time before the official overtime.

The Hawks tied the score on an innocent-looking faceoff with two minutes left in the second. John Madden won it from Mike Richards clean back to Brent Sopel, who let go a long shot through a double screen that may have kept Philly goalie Michael Leighton from seeing the puck.

Chicago only enjoyed the lead for 20 seconds all night, as Patrick Kane finally got on the board. Quiet for the first two games in Chicago, Kane took the puck from Jonathan Toews and beat Leighton to his blocker side at 2:50. The Hawks never really had a chance to celebrate. On the very next shift, the Flyers tied it up as Ville Leino batted in a rebound of Giroux's shot. His 15th playoff point established a new club record for a rookie.

"I think we lost a lot of momentum there right away," said Hawks coach Joel Quenneville. "We didn't get a chance to take advantage of playing with the lead."

The goal was, in fact, the demarcation point between two different parts of the game. For much of the middle period, Chicago forwards were skating faster and making the crisper passes. The Flyers had several good looks at the net, but simply misfired. After Leino's goal, the Flyers looked like the team that has often worn teams down in the postseason.

The victory marked the sixth in a row at home for the Flyers, who have taken eight of nine overall on home ice. With that fell several streaks: The 'Hawks had won all six playoff games against the Flyers in their history.

• A Chicago victory would have established an NHL record for consecutive road wins in the playoffs (8).

• The 'Hawks had won their last two in Nashville, three in Vancouver and two in San Jose.

• Chicago also had a seven-game overall win streak snapped, despite playing a generally solid road game. It's only the familiar storyline from the resilient Flyers that kept the Blackhawks from going up 3-0.

"We've had a lot of practice at it," said Pronger. "We've had a lot of adversity this year."

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