PHILADELPHIA – When the Philadelphia Flyers drafted Claude Giroux four years ago, then-general manager Bob Clarke forgot his name at the podium.
Everyone who roots for the orange and black will remember Giroux now.
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.
Minutes after the Flyers thought they scored the winner 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 straight 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 1974-75, 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 against Boston in Game 2 of the 1974 series.
Giroux is making quite a name for himself with nine goals in the playoffs after tallying 16 in the regular season. If Giroux keeps this up and Philadelphia wins the Cup, he’ll be revered by the Flyers’ 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 playoffs, the Flyers had plenty of confidence despite losing the first two games in Chicago. They already came back from a 3-0 hole to beat the Boston Bruins in the semifinals.
“Like I said this morning, 2-0 for us is comfortable,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’re OK with that. We know how to battle through it.”
The Blackhawks remained two wins shy of their first championship since 1961 after snapping a seven-game winning streak and a seven-game road winning streak.
Moments before Giroux scored, Simon Gagne nearly ended it but the replay officials ruled the puck didn’t cross the goal line.
That made Philadelphia 1 for 2 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 Briere and Ville Leino also scored for the Flyers, helping them win a desperation game. 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 Chicago.
The Blackhawks had won 10 of 11 and swept the Western Conference finals against top-seeded San Jose to storm into the finals. They won two games at home without a point from Kane or Jonathan Toews.
“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 went up 2-1 when Hartnell was credited with his fifth goal of the post-season following a video review in the second period.
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.
Officials finally reviewed it after the next whistle and put the elapsed time back on the clock after declaring the goal.
Sopel blasted a shot past Leighton from inside the point to make it 2-2.
Briere got his 11th goal of the playoffs late in the first to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Briere flipped a shot into an open net off a backhand pass from afalling-down Hartnell on the power play. Niemi stopped Braydon Coburn’s initial shot, but was out of position after Hartnell’s acrobatic play.
Keith scored on a one-timer from the top of the left faceoff circle to tie it at 2. His shot deflected off Flyers forward Jeff Carter’s stick.
The teams traded goals 20 seconds apart in the third to make it 3-3. Kane scored his eighth goal of the playoffs on a breakaway to give Chicago a 3-2 lead 2:50 into the third. But Leino knocked in a rebound for his sixth goal to tie it.
Niemi withstood a flurry of shots in the third, stopping 14 of the 15 shots he faced to send it to overtime.
“It’s a tough way to lose, especially in OT when you work as hard as you did,” Toews said. “We had the lead in the third and they kind of came right back and took the momentum away.”
In the first Stanley Cup finals game at the Wachovia Center in 13 years, a boisterous sellout crowd of 20,297—the largest ever to watch an NHL game in Pennsylvania—did everything it could to give Philadelphia the home-ice advantage. The orange-clad fans wore T-shirts featuring a photo of a singing Kate Smith and the words: “Broad Street Believin'”
The “Let’s Go Flyers!” chants started more than 30 minutes before the puck dropped. The roars were deafening when Lauren Hart, the daughter of longtime former Flyers broadcaster Gene Hart, sang “God Bless America,” alternating lyrics with Smith, who was on a video image. Smith’s rendition of the song has been a rallying anthem for the Flyers since the mid 1970s.
NOTES: The Flyers are 8-1 at home this post-season. … Chicago’s 11 goals have been scored by 10 players.