3 Stars: Claude Giroux's filthy snipe pushes Flyers past Blackhawks in OT

3 Stars: Claude Giroux's filthy snipe pushes Flyers past Blackhawks in OT

A look at the Philadelphia Flyers'  3-2 overtime victory over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center from the perspective of three players.

You guys catch your breath yet after that one?

3. Ray Emery

Steve Mason had started eight straight games so Flyers head coach Craig Berube decided to give Ray Emery a start against the visiting Blackhawks.

It was reasonable to think that Emery would be a bit rusty at the start of the game. After all, he hadn’t seen game action since injuring himself on Feb. 27 when the Flyers were blown out the San Jose Sharks and hadn’t started a game since defeating the Calgary Flames on Feb. 8.

A bit rusty was an understatement.

Andrew Shaw’s opening tally just over two minutes into the game wasn’t really Emery’s fault because of the egregious turnover and non-existent defense that preceded it. But Emery would really like to have Duncan Keith’s goal a few minutes afterward back. It was a hard shot by Keith but Emery had a clear view and got a huge chunk of the puck before letting it sneak through and into the net.

But Emery calmed down, eased the tensions of Flyer fans and didn’t allow another goal the rest of the night.  He made 23 saves in all for his eighth victory of the season.

They weren’t easy saves, either. The Blackhawks’ flurry near the end of the third period when Emery lost his goal stick particularly comes to mind. But he had every answer and played a key role in the Flyers’ victory despite the rough start.

2. Scott Hartnell

The Flyers were pretty sluggish to start the game and quickly found themselves down 2-0 after bad turnovers and bad defense.

They needed a spark and Hartnell was there to provide it.

At the 5:48 mark of the first period, Hartnell attempted to center the puck to Claude Giroux but it bounced off the skate of Chicago’s Marcus Kruger, then off Chicago goalie Antti Raanta and into the net to get the Flyers back within one.

Near the end of the opening stanza, Giroux centered to Hartnell, who was uncovered in the slot, and Hartnell blasted the puck over Raanta’s glove to tie the game at two.

The goals were his 17th and 18th of the year, respectively.

Hartnell’s first goal was an ugly one and his second goal was a pretty one. But here’s the thing about goals: they all count the same no matter how ugly or pretty they are.  And more importantly on Tuesday night, they got the Flyers back into the game.

1. Claude Giroux

Seriously? Were you expecting someone else?

Giroux was flying all over the ice all night. He kicked it into that extra gear on every chase for a loose puck and every time he raced back on defense. He brought tenacity to every board battle. He dove after every puck that was barely out of his reach. He led by example and played like he had something to prove.

He sure proved something with 4.2 seconds left in overtime on Tuesday.

With time winding down in overtime and a shootout looming, Giroux took a pass from Mark Streit and raced up ice. The Flyers’ captain cut down the right wing to set up Keith as a screen and then rifled off a wicked wrist shot through the legs of Keith, over Raanta’s shoulder and top-cheese into the corner of the net for the win with just those precious 4.2 seconds left.

Holy moly. That was a shot only the most elite of the elite are capable of. Raanta’s head is still spinning around Wells Fargo Center

It was pure, unadulterated hockey filthiness. Just go back and watch it over and over again on repeat and bask in its infinite glory.

Along with his assist on Hartnell’s second goal, it was a two-point night for Giroux. He has 14 points – five goals, nine assists – in the nine games since the Flyers have come back from the Olympic break.

The dude is a monster.

Sure, the wins against the Penguins over the weekend were nice, but detractors will say the Penguins weren't at full strength with their injuries to key players. The Blackhawks are one if the best teams in the league and came into the game at full strength and as dangerous as ever. If anything was proven Tuesday night, it was the fact that the Flyers can hang with the best of teams when they play at the top of their game. Even Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is inclined to agree.

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.