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Phil Sheridan: Goal for goal, the Stanley Cup Finals go on

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

The Flyers finally broke through against the Blackhawks in overtime. (Ed Hille/Staff Photographer)
The Flyers finally broke through against the Blackhawks in overtime. (Ed Hille/Staff Photographer)Read more

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, if only because the overtime provided an extra six minutes of high drama.

Twice in this game, 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.

"It was nice to come right back," coach Peter Laviolette said. "You think it's over. We don't get it. We just go back to work."

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 by 2-0 to the very talented Chicago Blackhawks.

"Like I said, 2-0 is comfortable," Laviolette said. "I am 100 percent confident in the guys in that [locker] room to win any hockey game against anybody."

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 that 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.

Neither of these teams are wired to go into a defensive shell, at least not until very late in the game. The stay aggressive, trying to build on leads rather than protect them. It makes for entertaining, fastbreak hockey with plenty of scoring chances for both sides.

And so the pattern has been established: 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.

"It's entertaining hockey," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "It's all-out. It's a very competitive, fast-paced series."

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.