PHILADELPHIA – When Claude Giroux got a text message from a friend predicting he would score the game-winner in overtime, the Philadelphia Flyers centre just laughed.
Then the 22-year-old went out and scored 5:59 into the extra period to give the Flyers perhaps a series-saving goal for a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final on Wednesday night.
Chicago still leads the best-of-seven series with Game 4 set for Friday night at Wachovia Center.
“I was taking a nap,” a beaming Giroux said of his pal Luc Deschamps. “He usually doesn’t text me a lot, but he said ‘you’re going to score the overtime winner.’
“I texted back ‘ah, you’re crazy.’ I’m going to call him now. It’s probably the biggest goal of my career and I’m happy. But now we have to put this behind us now and get ready for Game 4.”
Giroux also assisted on linemate Ville Leino’s goal that tied the game at 3:10 of the third period, which came just 20 seconds after Patrick Kane had put Chicago ahead with a breakaway effort that looked like it may break the backs of the hard-working Flyers.
The Hearst, Ont., native also assisted on Scott Hartnell’s power-play goal in the second frame.
After not getting a point and going minus-3 in the first two games in Chicago, it was a big rebound for the promising centre who now has 20 points—nine goals and 11 assists—in 20 playoff games.
The overtime goal came moments after what looked like a winner by Simon Gagne was shown not to have crossed the line.
Then Giroux went to the net, put out a skate and saw Matt Carle’s pass go off him and slide past a helpless Antti Niemi.
“I was trying to get my stick on it and it trickled in,” said Giroux.
The goal not only put Philadelphia back in contention for a first Stanley Cup since 1975, it avoided the deep hole of falling behind 3-0 in the series. Even though they overcame a 3-0 deficit against Boston in the second round, they didn’t want to do it again.
“It was a big game for us,” he added. “I don’t think guys wanted to come back from 3-0 again. If we wanted a chance to win this series, we needed to win this game. The message before the game was pretty clear, and the guys showed up.”
It was Giroux’s second game-winning goal of the playoffs and the first of his career, regular season or playoffs, in overtime.
The five-foot-11 centre was the series scoring leader in the Eastern Conference final against Montreal with three goals and six points and he was also plus-7 as the Flyers won in five games.