Heading into Game Three of the Stanley Cup Finals there were two streaks at risk—the Chicago Blackhawks seven game unbeaten streak on the road and the Flyers 7-1 record at home during the playoffs.
In games One and Two, the Chicago Blackhawk crowd rocked the arena—reaching decibel ratings over 110-115 on the scale.
In Philadelphia, the Wachovia Center was rocking on Wednesday night, as a solid pro-Flyers crowd, decked out in Orange t-shirts, were as boisterous as they come to start game three.
The Flyers responded with some solid forechecking and great pressure in the Hawks zone.
Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger “rocked” Hawks forward Jonathan Toews at 15:55 of the first period (who made the poor decision to try to run Pronger). Toews ended up on his “Butt”, which was actually rather humorous as Pronger barely budged on the play, even with Toews near full flight on impact.
Flyers forward Danny Briere took advantage of Philadelphia’s pressure when he notched his fourth power play marker of the playoffs at 14:58 of the first period—a goal that came with Hawks forward Marian Hossa in the box.
The Flyers escaped from the first period up by a goal and with the benefit of a power play opportunity which came courtesy of Hawks pest Dustin Byfuglien when, through his own stupidity, took a roughing penalty at the end of the first period of play.
Philadelphia was unsuccessful on the power play to start the second period, but were given another opportunity when none other than Byfuglien took another penalty at 09:31 of the second period—this time an unnecessary slashing penalty.
Scott Hartnell—perhaps the Flyers best forward/most aggressive forward on the night—took advantage of the power play opportunity, notching his fifth goal of the postseason at 09:55 of the second period.
The goal was originally called off, but after a break in play the Referee’s reviewed the goal and came out with the words everyone (outside of a few Blackhawks fans) wanted to hear, “upon further review, we have a good goal”.
The crowd erupted and, just like that, the Flyers looked to be in control of game three—but would it last?
Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton took a stupid penalty of his own when, overwhelmed with traffic in front of his net, he tried to sell the Ref’s on his being bumped by one of the Hawks forwards, knocking the goal off it’s moorings in the process .
The Ref’s didn’t buy it, instead opting to give Leighton a delay of game penalty at 14:59 of the second—which, in my opinion, was deserved.
Fortunately, for the Flyers, Chicago failed to score on the power play (which has been horrible all series long), but the Hawks did manage to notch the game at two goals apiece when Chicago defenseman Brent Sopel blasted a shot past Leighton off a John Madden faceoff win.
Despite Byfuglien’s dumb penalties and the Hawks’ inability to score on the power play, it was a good second period for the Hawks as they outshot the Flyers by a 12-7 margin and escaped with a 2-2 score, which put the Hawks in a great position to earn a 3-0 lead in the series.
The Hawks and Flyers came out hustling to start the third period. And then it happened; Chicago forward Patrick Kane took advantage of a bad Flyers turnover, breaking in on Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton and depositing the puck behind the tough-luck goalie, who was beaten down low on the blocker side.
For Kane, it was just his second goal in eleven playoff games and first point of the series. For Jonathan Toews (who assisted on the goal) it was just his first point of the series.
You could feel the Flyers crowd die a little with that goal—maybe it wasn’t their year after all???
With the crowd clearly reeling and the Flyers in deep “you-know-what”, Philadelphia forward Ville Leino responded just twenty seconds later, beating Hawks goaltender Antti Niemi with a vicious wrist shot, tying the game at three goals apiece and getting the Flyers right back in the game/series.
As was the case in game two of the series the Flyers seemingly dominated the Blackhawks for much of the third period, spending much of their time in the Hawks zone, peppering Niemi with shots, taking advantage of turnovers in the neutral zone, dominating battles for lose pucks and creating numerous scoring chances.
The Hawks made a bit of a comeback, often dominating the Flyers down low in the final three minutes of the third period, extracting a measure of dignity from what was otherwise a horrific period of hockey for Chicago, who, barring the goaltending heroics of Niemi, would have been down 5-2.
Danny Briere, Chris Pronger, Scott Hartnell, Ville Leino and Jeff Carter were the Flyers best players throughout the high-flying third period, but none of them were able to beat Niemi, which meant we were going to overtime for the first time in the series.
For the record, the Flyers outshot the Hawks by a final tally of 15-4 in the third period, the exact same margin they outshot the Hawks in game two of the series—talk about your horseshoes!
Just as the CBC broadcast was pointing out how great a job Hawks forward David Bolland was doing against Flyers captain Mike Richards by keeping him off the scoreboard for the third consecutive game, Richards struck for the Orange and Black—scoring what many fans felt would be the game winner.
As luck would have it, the goal went under review where Referee Bill McCreary waived it off.
Just moments later, Flyers forward Claude Giroux (who had a dominant game for the Flyers) scored what will perhaps be the biggest goal of his career at 05:59 of overtime, beating Niemi through the legs.
And just like that, the Hawks eight game unbeaten streak on the road was over and we hockey fans have a series!!! Trailing 2-1 in the series, the Orange and Black still have a ways to go but, the Flyers looked every bit like the better team on this night, arguably throughout the entire series.
Only question I have: I wonder if Chris Pronger grabbed the puck???
—The three stars of the game were Claude Giroux, Duncan Keith and Scott Hartnell.
—Game four will be played Friday night in Philadelphia, don’t miss it!
For more NHL news and notes check out my website at www.theslapshot.com
Until next time,