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Phil Sheridan: Every game is a battle

The Flyers finally found a way to hold on to a lead against the Chicago Blackhawks: Get it in overtime.

The Flyers finally found a way to hold on to a lead against the Chicago Blackhawks: Get it in overtime.

Claude Giroux scored just under six minutes into overtime, ending Game 3 and giving the Flyers real hope in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Giroux's goal saved the Flyers from a three-games-to-none deficit in this best-of-seven series. As the record crowd in the Wachovia Center erupted in celebration, the series instantly became as close as the games have been.

Three one-goal games, each as different as could be. A counterpunch for nearly every punch. The games have been exhilarating and maddening and thrilling. Game 3 was the best of the bunch.

Twice the horn sounded to signify a Flyers goal and trigger a wild celebration in the arena. Twice there was a replay review. Once, the officials ruled, correctly, that the puck had crossed the line for a Flyers goal. Once, the officials ruled, correctly, that the puck had rolled along the line and that the goal did not count.

That second call came in overtime, turning a raucous celebration into stunned silence. It looked and felt and especially sounded as if Simon Gagne had ended the game - something he has done before in this wild and crazy postseason - with a timely shot.

The camera said otherwise, and the Flyers were forced to play on. There was a natural problem here. Getting an overtime goal is cathartic. Having one you've just celebrated erased is bound to be deflating.

But these Flyers do not deflate. They do not give up, not when they're down three-games-to-none against the Boston Bruins and not when they're down 2-0 to the very talented Chicago Blackhawks.

Matt Carle made a sweet pass, catching Giroux as he glided into the slot. The puck beat Antti Niemi and the Flyers had defended home ice, at least this once.

There will be no sweep. And that is fitting. These games have been too close, too tight, too evenly played for one team to get brushed aside so easily.

It is really breathtaking, the way these two teams have matched each other, goal for goal for goal. There has been just one two-goal lead in the three games so far - the result of that 28-second outburst by Chicago in the second period of Game 2. And the Flyers narrowed that to a one-goal lead early in the third period.

Other than the 7 minutes, 43 seconds Chicago led by 2-0, this entire series has been played with the teams even or with a one-goal difference.

In an absolute must-win Game 3 on Wednesday night at the Wachovia Center, the Flyers took the lead in the first period, lost it in the second. They took another lead in the second period, lost it before the intermission.

In Game 1, the Flyers had three different one-goal leads. The Blackhawks answered every time.

The most obvious explanation is that these 'Hawks are just plain good. They're talented and deep.

But there's more to it than that. Plenty of NHL teams over the past decade or so whose entire strategy was to get a lead, then shift into a conservative, stifling defensive mode. That is not the Flyers' way, especially since they haven't had any of those leads in the third period.

The Flyers play Peter Laviolette's aggressive forechecking style pretty much regardless of the score. The idea is to remain on the attack and try to build on that lead. But the Flyers haven't been able to do that. Neither, for the most part, have the Blackhawks.

There is a goal, and then there is a furious effort to respond. Over and over. There is no such thing as momentum, no sign of either team letting a game snowball away from them.

The Flyers found themselves trailing again in the third period. This time, Ville Leino was the one who answered. The tie endured through regulation and into overtime.

Coming into the series, much was made - and rightly so - of Chicago's brilliant young forwards, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The two gave a glimpse of why in the third period. Toews found Kane streaking up the ice, freeing the sharpshooter for a breakaway. He gave Chicago a 3-2 lead.

One goal. Always one goal.

But Giroux, just 22 years old, has played every bit as superbly in this postseason. He is a big-game player, one who thrives under pressure and has the skills to create on the fly. His redirect of Carle's perfect pass could be, just could be, the goal that turns this series around.

The Flyers are back in it. If we've learned anything about this series, both teams are always in it.