The Stanley Cup Final returned to Philadelphia for the first time in 13 years, and it was worth the wait.
On a night when the Wachovia Center crowd was on edge from start to finish, the Flyers outlasted Chicago 4-3 in an overtime thriller.
The mood was festive afterwards, but it seemed most fans were more relieved than anything after Claude Giroux scored on the Flyers' only official shot in the extra session.
Philadelphia is back in the series after yet another one-goal game against the Hawks.
Over the first seven periods of the series, Giroux had no points and did not register a shot on goal. He returned to form after the first intermission Wednesday, picking up assists on Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino's goals before tallying his first career playoff overtime score to get the Flyers back in the series.
Giroux now has 10 points in his last 11 games.
Briere picked up a goal and an assist to take over the team lead with 24 points in the playoffs.
He has now picked up multi-point efforts in nine of his last 17 games.
The forward has points in nine of his last 14 games. His third period goal, only 20 seconds after Patrick Kane put the Hawks up 3-2 in the third, may have saved the season for Philadelphia.
He also equaled Brian Propp's club record for postseason points by a rookie with 15.
Wednesday's victory snapped a seven-game Finals losing streak. Their last win occurred during Game Six of the 1987 Finals when J.J. Daigneault scored the game-winner against Edmonton.
Philadelphia also won in OT for the first time in the Finals since Bobby Clarke beat Boston in Game Two of 1974 series. They had lost four straight extra session outings since.
Philadelphia had been 0-6 all-time versus Chicago in the postseason.
The Blackhawks had their seven-game road and overall winning streaks snapped.
Chicago had been 10-0 in games decided by two goals or less. All four of their previous playoff losses had been by three or four goals.
The Flyers have used the middle period to their advantage during these playoffs, outscoring the opposition 29-14.
However, in this series, the Blackhawks have scored seven goals to only three for Philadelphia, including a 2-1 margin Wednesday.
Third Period Dominance
For the second straight game, the Flyers outshot Chicago 15-4 in the third. Despite a 30-8 margin in shots, Philadelphia has only outscored the Hawks 2-1 during the frame.
The crowd of 20,297 was a Wachovia Center record.
Dan Carcillo picked up a questionable charging call in the first period and head coach Peter Laviolette was not pleased with the officials.
No way that call is made if anyone other than Carcillo makes that hit. Carcillo had a rough night, finishing with only 7:39 of ice time and none in the third period or overtime.
After playing 10:45 on 14 shifts in the second game, Oskars Bartulis was limited to 2:29 on four shifts Wednesday. The defenseman didn't see the ice after the first period.
The 13-year drought between Final appearances is the longest in Flyers franchise history.
Including the regular season, all four meetings with Chicago have been decided by one goal.
The referee had an interesting night with two potential goals that required video review, but it was also an historic night for McCreary.
Game Three was his 43rd career Stanley Cup Final game, passing Bill Chadwick for the most all-time.
This series marks his 15th career championship series he's worked.
Mike Richards was wearing bright orange sneakers while playing soccer with some teammates before the game.
Leino seemed to play the whole game with the puck on his stick. In one sequence during the second period, his linemates were going for a change while Leino was carrying the puck up ice.
The Finnish forward went one-on-five and almost carried the puck through the entire Chicago team in the neutral zone.
Giroux's overtime goal looked like a carbon copy of Simon Gagne's winner against Boston in Game Four of the previous series.
After complaints about the ice conditions in Chicago, the surface seemed in good shape at the Wach despite the hot and humid day in Philly.
Versus finally realized that showing the Lauren Hart/Kate Smith God Bless America duet would be a good idea.
Plenty of Stanley Cup rings were in the house with Mark Messier, Brendan Shanahan, and Scotty Bowman among those in attendance.
Another great night for jerseys in the crowd. Spotted amongst the more than 20,000 in attendance were sweaters from Ron Sutter, Chris Gratton, Mark Howe, Pelle Lindbergh, Derrick Smith, Kjell Samuelsson, Robert Esche, Brian Propp, and a Jay Wells.
*Find more Philly sports fun at Firedforwinning.com