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Bob Ford: A win worth singing about

The only thing about the Stanley Cup Finals that sounded good at the outset of Wednesday's game was Kate Smith.

Flyers fans erupted when Claude Giroux scored the game-winning goal. (Michael Bryant/Staff file photo)
Flyers fans erupted when Claude Giroux scored the game-winning goal. (Michael Bryant/Staff file photo)Read more

The only thing about the Stanley Cup Finals that sounded good at the outset of Wednesday's game was Kate Smith.

You have to give it to the old girl. She's been waiting through all these years for that next Cup celebration, and she still never bounces one off the pipes. Kate's just a grainy gal in a high-def world, but she still can get the stands revved up when the situation calls for it.

As for the rest of the prelude to Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks, nothing much else sounded good as the Flyers circled out from their dressing room. They were trailing the series, two games to none, having lost one high-octane game and one lowbrow game in Chicago to start the series.

If that seemed to leave them with few stylistic options, the Flyers shrugged and went for one that has worked in the past: Skate as if your boots are on fire.

Well, that strategy worked, although it took a tick less than 66 minutes of hockey, two goal reviews, and a lot of hard work before the Flyers won the game, 4-3, their first Stanley Cup Finals win since 1987.

The outcome ensured that the Flyers would not suffer the ignominy of a sweep, and that the series would have to return to Chicago. The Flyers are thinking bigger than that, however.

"I am 100 percent confident in the guys in that room being able to win any hockey game against anybody," coach Peter Laviolette said. "For us, [being down in a series] 2-0 is comfortable. We're OK with that. We know how to battle through. Now we have to hold serve again on home ice."

After three games, all decided by one goal, the Flyers, seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, clearly can play evenly with the more highly-regarded Blackhawks. On Wednesday night, the bounces evened out a bit, and the Flyers are one more win from really putting a scare into Chicago.

"We felt we could have won the two out there," Laviolette said. "It seemed in this game that the longer it went, the better we were. We still have a lot of speed to our game."

And it went longer than necessary, nearly six minutes into overtime before Claude Giroux, who already had two assists in the game, slipped a shot past Antti Niemi off a perfect pass from Matt Carle to win it.

Giroux had been almost invisible in the two Chicago games, but he was all over the ice Wednesday, playing with Arron Asham and Dan Carcillo to start the game and mixed and matched with other lines as it went along.

"I think he just loosened up a little bit," Laviolette said. "Remember, it's the Stanley Cup Finals. We talked about it and told them to just lighten up a bit. Have some fun and let it roll."

By far, and not just by outcome, Game 3 was the best of the series as it rolled along, featuring a great back-and-forth tempo, a lot of hitting, some wonderful shots, and very little of the sloppy play that bounced along the slushy swamp of the United Center.

The Blackhawks gave back as good as they got from the frenzied Flyers as the teams traded goals and Chicago came back twice from one-goal deficits before the Flyers opened the third period by doing the same.

Had either team gotten a two-goal lead, the game would not have been played as wildly, but this wasn't going to be that kind of night. As it was, every shot and every shift had to count. The Flyers, for all their energy, were not lucky with their shots. They hit the post a couple of times, missed a few rebound shots that were nearly the equivalent of open-netters, and had to make up with hustle what they lacked in accuracy.

Still, through two periods and late into the third, that was enough. The tension mounted, the contact increased, and the officials put their whistles away. This game, this pivotal game, was going to be decided by the players, and they knew it.

Laviolette went only with what he truly trusted in this spot, and that meant just three scoring lines and two defensive lines. By the time the game rumbled into an overtime period, defensemen Braydon Coburn, Chris Pronger, Carle, and Kimmo Timonen had played at least 25 minutes, paced by a leg-dragging 28:44 for Pronger. Only one Chicago player, defenseman Duncan Keith, played as many as 25 minutes, and the Flyers had to hope that fatigue didn't become a deciding factor before it was over.

It nearly was over, of course, and happily for the home crowd when Danny Briere appeared to score five minutes into the overtime. The horn, the lights, the puck dancing along the goal line - just as it had before an earlier review was decided in the Flyers' favor. This time play continued.

But not for long.

Less than a minute later, Giroux poked through the winner on the odd-man rush, and that goal didn't need to be reviewed.

Kate didn't have to come out and sing again, either, because this particular opera is a long way from over.