Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Stanley Cup finals

Flyers pull level with Hawks Add to ...

Philadelphia Flyers' coach Peter Laviolette has this theory about redemption that applies nicely to his NHL team, now that they've squared the best-of-seven Stanley Cup final with the Chicago Blackhawks at two games apiece.

Laviolette believes that you can right a lot of regular-season wrongs with a strong playoff showing.

"They are an opportunity to write a new script for how your year went," says Laviolette. "It will probably be the script that's remembered, not the tougher times."

The Flyers added a fresh chapter to this post-season of improbable moments and fantastic finishes Friday night. First-period goals from Mike Richards, Matt Carle and Claude Giroux staked Philadelphia to an early lead and they then hung on for a rousing 5-3 win over the visiting Blackhawks Friday night before another record-breaking crowd - this one comprising 20,304 mostly orange-clad spectators - at the Wachovia Centre.

On a night when it looked as if the Flyers had things well under control midway through the third period, they gave up two late goals to the Blackhawks; and didn't put it on ice until Jeff Carter scored into the empty net, with Chicago pressing hard for the tying goal.

"We took the hard way at the end," said Flyers' winger Simon Gagne. "We thought at 4-1, we were able to get away with it, but they played hard to the end.

"That's the Stanley Cup final. They're going to give everything; and we're going to give everything. It'll be hard to go into Chicago; they're a tough team to beat there; we're a tough team to beat in Philly. So the team that wins on the road has got a good chance."

Essentially, the Flyers won it in the opening period, where they were outplayed for large stretches, but made the most of their scoring chances. Philadelphia scored three times on eight shots, two on egregious defensive giveaways, against goaltender Antti Niemi, who didn't get much help from his usually reliable defence corps.



"We were playing catch-up the whole game," assessed Blackhawks' coach Joel Quenneville afterwards. "We've just got to be smarter and more composed."

The Blackhawks inserted Nick Boynton for Jordan Hendry, but it was the nominal No. 2 pair - of Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Sopel - which was victimized by the Flyers.

Hjalmarsson was stripped of the puck on Richards' opening goal, a turnover created by the Flyers' captain relentless pursuit of the penalty-killing Blackhawks' defenceman.

Carle came sifting down the middle of the ice to pick up an errant clear and blast it back into the open net. Both goals were unassisted - Richards' his first of the series; Carle his first of the playoffs. They both added new and compelling chapters to their personal playoff scripts.

Giroux, meanwhile, just continues to roll along. He has 10 goals in the post-season. The only other players in double figures are teammate Daniel Briere and the Montreal Canadiens' Michael Cammalleri.

Giroux, from Hearst, Ont. possesses the sort of right-place, right-time presence that characterizes all the pure goal-scorers. That was certainly the case again last night, when he materialized, unchecked, at the side of Niemi's goal to convert Kimmo Timmonen's feed with 37 seconds to go in the opening period and restore the Flyers' two-goal cushion.

It was Giroux's overtime winner two nights earlier that got the Flyers back in the series.

The importance of Giroux's contribution last night could not be overstated either. It came less than a minute after Patrick Sharp had scored a goal that might have shifted the momentum Chicago's way. Instead, whatever life the Blackhawks may have had was snuffed out immediately.

Ville Leino completed the scoring for Philadelphia with a third-period goal that deflected in off Kris Versteeg's back. That eventually turned out to be the game winner, because Dave Bolland subsequently scored a five-on-three power-play goal - meaningful for a lot of reasons, including the fact that it was the first time Chicago converted with the man advantage in the series.



Then Brian Campbell scored his first of the playoffs, on a shot that appeared to deflect in off Jonathan Toews' skate and needed to be reviewed before it officially counted. However, the Blackhawks couldn't get one more past goalie Michael Leighton.

"There's nothing we can do about it now," said Sopel. "It's over; those four games are done with; now it's a best-of-three and we just have to focus on the first period of Game 5."

That match occurs Sunday at the United Centre, where the Flyers will need to win at least once to earn the Stanley Cup. Philadelphia is just 5-6 on the road in these playoffs, but has gotten stronger as every series has moved along.

In fact, the Flyers have yet to lose beyond the third game in any series this spring. If that quirky trend continues, then they are in position to record one of the more statistically improbable upsets in history.

"We've done a better job of adapting, adjusting and also settling in," said Flyers' defenceman Chris Pronger. "They were obviously fired up for their first two games; and they were, they came out hard. We matched their intensity, but here at home, we needed to pick it up even more; and we were able to do that. Now, it's up to us to try to win a game on the road.

In recent years, many long-shot underdogs have made it all the way to the final, but failed to land in the winner's circle. Chicago finished 24 points ahead of Philadelphia in the regular-season standings.

Since 1939, when the NHL went to a best-of-seven format in the Stanley Cup final, only one other time has an underdog of that magnitude won it all - 1980, when the New York Islanders defeated the Flyers of Pat Quinn, in the same season that Philadelphia established a record 35-game regular-season undefeated streak.

But in a year - 2010 - when the Flyers made the playoffs on the final day of the regular season and then rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the second round against the Boston Bruins, it is getting easier to imagine that they can pull one more unexpected rabbit out of the hat.

 

In the know

Most popular videos »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular