By CHRIS DiFRANCESCOColumnist — firstname.lastname@example.org _______
They never back down. They never quit.
The tagline for the Flyers playoff run was ‘Relentless Pursuit of the Cup.’
My, did the Flyers nail that marketing idea. As much as the this Philadelphia squad are relentless, the word that best describes this hockey team is, resilient.
When Patrick Kane took the lead pass from Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and cashed in on his breakaway opportunity to put the Hawks ahead 3-2 just 2:50 into the third period, the Philly fans held their collective breath.
Until Ville Leino went on attack just 20 seconds later to tie the game and put the fans back on their raucous state.
Then shortly into overtime, it looked like Simon Gagne put a deflection off a Chris Pronger shot past Antii Niemi at 5:02 to win the game. Nope, didn’t happen. The puck banked off the left-side post and rolled directly across the line into the gut of Niemi.
The horn sounded as soon as the Flyers raised their arms in what they thought was a sweet overtime win, however, the horn and the replay had two different thoughts.
The replay clearly showed the puck never crossed the line. Although, just 57 seconds later, Claude Giroux sent the record crowd at the Wachovia Center and the entire city of Philadelphia into an uproar of cheering and ecstasy.
Giroux, 22, amazingly redirected a Matt Carle point shot with the stick between his legs and got just enough of the puck to sneak it by Niemi for the game winner.
“It’s nice to see little things like that don’t faze us,” Flyers captain Mike Richards said.
“[Giroux] loosened up a little bit,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “You have to remember, it’s the Stanley Cup Final. I think he came in today, we talked about it – to just lighten up a little bit…
“If you tighten it up too much you seize up a little bit. We talked about just having some fun tonight, come out and letting everything roll. Go after him, and I think he took that advice because he was smiling all day.”
How about the man of the hour?
“It’s huge,” Giroux said. “I don’t think guys want to come back again from 3-0. So it was tough losing the first two games. If we want to give us a chance to win the series, we needed to win this game tonight. The message was pretty clear before the game, and the guys showed up.”
“It’s obviously a big goal,” Giroux said. “It’s probably my biggest goal of my career. I’m happy I was able to do that.”
Giroux is right. That goal not only turned these Stanley Cup finals into a series, but it also shifted the momentum over to the Flyers side.
The Flyers knew they outplayed the Blackhawks in both games one and two except the outcome didn’t go their way. Fighting back the way they did Wednesday night, firing right back with Leino’s game-tying goal 20 seconds after Kane put the Hawks ahead, and then scoring less than minute after a goal was nullified in OT to win the game proved the resilience of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Now, what’s the confidence level of the head coach?
“I said it this morning and I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning feeling the same way—I am 100 percent confident in the guys in the room to be able to win any hockey game against anybody,” Laviolette said. “I think there’s that confidence from our team as well.”
This is becoming a script that most movie directors would laugh at and say it’s a little too fabricated.
Well, this isn’t something that’s made up or fabricated, this Flyers team are the real deal and they seem to have a destiny on their side.
Throughout the regular season, the Flyers would fall behind and not create a chance for themselves to rebound or to even appear as if they have life left in them.
When the Flyers reached the postseason it was like witnessing a rebirth of sort. Or you could say this team is the second coming of a Flyers team we haven’t seen since 1975. Either way, the Flyers have all the momentum heading into game-4 from the Wachovia Center Friday night.
If the Flyers can pull off a win Fri. night to even the series at 2-2, look for them to take over the series heading back to Chicago for game 5. Philadelphia could easily win this series in six games if they can stick to what worked in games two and three.
“Momentum goes a long way,” goalie Michael Leighton said. “They had it after the first two games, but we have it now.”
However, talk is cheap.