Friday, June 4, 2010

Flyers Relentless in Thriller that Ends With an Overtime Victory

By: Tim Brennan

Each season, the Philadelphia Flyers have come out with a slogan that will define what they are. This year's phrase is "Relentless". The Flyers have used that as their bread and butter all season long and continue to live it up in these playoffs. And thanks to a game winning goal in overtime from Claude Giroux, the Flyers made an impact to steer away from going down 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Giroux's 9th goal of the playoffs, and first point in this series, gave the Flyers new life after losing by a goal in each of the first two games. The marker will be one that Flyers fans will never forget as the passing lanes opened up for Danny Briere to send it to Matt Carle who found a wide open Giroux breaking to the net and tipped the puck in between his legs to give Philadelphia the 4-3 win only 6 minutes into the extra session. Giroux made a major impact on this series, as he collected 3 points in this game alone and was all over the ice, causing fits for the Blackhawks defenders.

Philadelphia's tenacity paid off in Game 3 due in part to an up-tempo pace that continued through the evening. The Flyers were able to win the majority of the puck battles and used speed and precision passing to catch Chicago off guard. As a result, the Flyers cashed in two powerplay goals on three attempts.

Danny Briere got the ball rolling in the first after Marian Hossa was whistled down for slashing. Briere started the play when he dangled past Duncan Keith to enter the zone and fired a quick high riser at Niemi, who blocked it down. Troy Brouwer attempted to clear the zone but Claude Giroux was able to bat the puck out of mid air and settle it down to set up Braydon Coburn for a one timer. Niemi's save on Coburn's shot kicked out to Scott Hartnell, who fell over and made an awkward pass to set up Briere backdoor. The combination of Giroux's ability to keep the puck in the zone and Hartnell's never quit attitude led to Philadelphia potting one on the man advantage.

Just when the Flyers thought they could maintain the lead for an extended period of time, it was taken away by Duncan Keith when his point shot found the net 2:49 into the second period. Patrick Kane took the puck off the boards and circled towards the middle by went untouched and found Keith wide open at the blueline, leading to the one time blast that tied the game up. Miscommunication between Matt Carle and Arron Asham led to Kane's subtle play as the Flyers stood mesmerized.

Philadelphia would get a 2-1 lead courtesy of Scott Hartnell's powerplay goal halfway through the stanza. Chris Pronger's wrist shot was deflected in the slot by Hartnell and trickled through Niemi, barely making it across the goal line as Niklas Hjalmarsson swept the puck out. After a delay for a review of the play, the official word came in that it was in fact a goal. Chicago poured on the pressure after Hartnell's goal and continued to get chances. The Blackhawks got on the board late in the second from Brent Sopel. John Madden's clean faceoff win gave Sopel an opportunity for a quick shot without any pressure and the defenseman cashed in. There's no doubt about it that Michael Leighton definitely would want that one back.

The intensity picked up in the third period, with a total of five hits in the first two minutes. The Flyers got some sustained pressure on Chicago and worked the puck around but an errant pass that was steered away by Ben Eager gave Chicago a chance to push forward and try to break the Flyers spirits. Jonathan Toews picked up the puck and found Patrick Kane breaking through the defense and the youngster gave Chicago a 3-2 lead a little over 2 minutes in on a breakaway. Kane is one of the best when it comes to breakaways so there was no way that Leighton could do anything about it. Ville Leino tied things up only 20 seconds after Kane's marker, picking up the rebound off of Jordan Hendry's accidental deflection on his own goaltender. The Flyers thought they won the game when Simon Gagne sent a wrist shot towards the net, that clanged off the post. Those in the crowd stood up and cheered and even the goal judge was fooled as the horn rang out. After a short review of Gagne's shot, it was determined that it didn't hit the inside of the post as many had suspected, but came off the face of the post. This would eventually set up Giroux's game winning goal in overtime.

Even though Giroux was the by far the player of the game, one could also give credit to the continued success of the Hartnell-Briere-Leino line and the offensive prowess of Matt Carle. The Flyers most productive line this post season combined in Game 3 for 3 goals and 2 assists along with 9 shots and Briere picked up a helper on Giroux's game winner. Matt Carle added 2 assists of his own and was more than willing to rush the puck up the ice any chance he got.

Another key factor in this game was the Flyers dominance in the faceoff circle. Prior to Game 3, Chicago had racked up 77 faceoff wins in 135 attempts, giving them a 57% in that area while Philadelphia only managed 58, which amounts to 43%. The Flyers have been getting killed all post season in faceoffs but finally turned the tides on Chicago, winning 34 of 62 attempts. Although Chicago scored a goal because of a faceoff win by John Madden, the Flyers were able to win draws in important times of the game. Faceoffs are an extremely noteworthy area when it comes to whether a team wins or loses a game, especially in the playoffs.

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