Justice is not a quality usually associated with NHL playoff games. Justice doesn't recognize effort, or necessarily even reward the best team. Sometimes, the game can turn on an odd carom; sometimes, on a controversial video review.
But justice might have been served on Tuesday night, when the Philadelphia Flyers escaped with a 4-3 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks in a wild and crazy third game of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup final.
The Flyers played with the urgency of a team that knew it couldn't fall into a 3-0 deficit in the series and still hope to challenge for the Cup.
In the end, they were rewarded for their diligence when Claude Giroux scored the winning goal at 5:59 of the first overtime period, giving them their first win in the series and ensuring that the 2010 final may still have its share of dramatic moments. Right now, Chicago leads 2-1 going into Friday's fourth game of the series.
"We're back in the series now," said the Flyers' Ville Leino, who scored the tying goal to force overtime. "It's a huge confidence builder."
Only 57 seconds earlier, the Flyers had an apparent goal in the OT (that actually went off the goal post) overturned by video review. Whoever had their finger on the horn at the Wachovia Centre kept jumping the gun all night, but in the end, it didn't matter.
Philadelphia kept pressing and was finally rewarded when Giroux tipped Matt Carle's shot past goaltender Antti Niemi with an acrobatic manoeuvre, getting his stick blade on the shot and his skate out of the way.
"We didn't want to get down because it was obviously a big point in the game," said Flyers captain Mike Richards. "But we just kept on going. We didn't let it faze us. We're resilient. We could have packed it in. We could have made excuses, but we didn't. We just kept coming back and played hockey."
It was a game that seesawed back and forth all night. Twice, the Flyers took the lead on the power play, only to give it back on innocent shots from the point that found their way into the back of the net.
Chicago took an early third-period lead on Patrick Kane's breakaway goal, only to see Leino tie it up 20 seconds later, knotting the score again and giving all the momentum over to the Flyers for the remainder of regulation.
It was easily the most entertaining game of the series, after a rowdy 6-5 opener and a 2-1 snorathon in Game 2.
"It's tight out there," assessed Flyers' coach Peter Laviolette. "It's not as wide open as you think. It's two fast hard-checking teams. They probably feel they could have won tonight and I told you earlier that we could have won the two up there. It's good hockey. It's back and forth."
Philadelphia looked willing to trade chances with the fleet Blackhawks and for the most part, kept pace with them.
There were long stretches of the game played without whistles, including the first 10 minutes of the game, as the teams traded chances.
The loss snapped Chicago's record-tying road-winning streak at seven games. For the Flyers, they raised their home playoff record to 8-1.
"It's a fast-paced game and a fast-paced series," said Blackhawks' coach Joel Quenneville, who felt that his team lost a great opportunity when they couldn't hold the lead for more than 20 seconds, after playing with it for much of the first two games.
Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell scored power-play goals for the Flyers, while Duncan Keith and Brent Sopel replied with even-strength goals for Chicago, which kept the game even through two periods.
Hartnell also made a nice backhand blind pass to set up Briere for the first goal.
Quenneville was juggling his forwards constantly from about the second period on, trying to find combinations that worked, which is how Ben Eager ended up on the ice with Kane and Jonathan Toews and started the play that led to their go-ahead goal.
Sopel's goal was his first since Nov. 15.
Hartnell's goal required video review. It came midway through the second period when he deflected a point shot from Chris Pronger that drifted towards the goal line, puck dancing on edge.
Chicago defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson appeared to clear it off the goal line just before it could go into the net and play continued on for almost another two minutes, before a whistle permitted the referees to call upstairs for the review. Hockey operations ruled that the puck crossed the line completely and thus should count.
For most of two periods, there wasn't really much to choose from between the teams again.
Philadelphia had one thing go its way early on - the Flyers finally had a chance to play with the lead, for a little while anyway. In the first two games, Philadelphia was ahead for a total of just 4 minutes and 57 seconds of playing time, a difficult way to play.
That all changed when Briere scored his 11th of the postseason on a power play, with the Blackhawks' Marian Hossa off for slashing. That came at the 14:58 mark of the opening period on a broken play. First, Troy Brouwer failed to get the puck out of the zone and then Niemi couldn't control Braydon Coburn's long shot from the point.
Hartnell scooped up the loose puck and made a seeing-eye pass from one side of the goal to the other that Briere dumped into the empty net.
The Flyers held that lead until early in the second when the Blackhawks took advantage of some concerted zone time to finally get on the board, with a bit of a lucky goal. Circling in the zone, Kane found Keith open at the right point and Keith's shot deflected off the blade of Jeff Carter's stick, up and over Leighton's shoulder and glove.
For the most part, the Blackhawks worked harder at getting their match-ups than the Flyers did and as a result, Chicago had checking centre Dave Bolland out against Philadelphia captain Mike Richards.Report Typo/Error