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.

No. 24 Penn State at Purdue: Nittany Lions seek 1st road win

No. 24 Penn State at Purdue: Nittany Lions seek 1st road win

Penn State (5-2, 3-1) vs. Purdue (3-4, 1-3)
Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.
Saturday, noon, ABC/ESPN2

Scouting Penn State
The Lions upended the Buckeyes, 24-21, when safety Marcus Allen blocked a field goal and cornerback Grant Haley returned it 60 yards for a touchdown with 4:27 left in the game. The Lions, who rallied from a 21-7 deficit after three quarters, earned their third straight victory.

Allen and Haley were named Big Ten co-Special Teams Players of the Week, and linebacker Brandon Bell, who had a career-high 19 tackles in the game, earned the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week honor.

Running back Saquon Barkley has rushed for 681 yards, fifth most in the Big Ten, and is tied for the conference lead in touchdowns with nine.

Scouting Purdue
Purdue fell to Nebraska last week in the debut of Boilermakers interim coach Gerad Parker, who replaced the fired Darrell Hazell on Oct. 16. Quarterback David Blough leads the Big Ten in passing yardage (2,065) and total offense (300.7 yards per game), and has thrown 14 touchdown passes (albeit with 11 interceptions).

The Boilermakers are, however, last in the Big Ten in rushing offense (120.3), total defense (441.0), turnover margin (minus-8) and red-zone offense (15 for 23, 11 touchdowns) and next to last in rushing defense (249.0) and passing efficiency.

The Lions lead 13-3-1 and have won the last seven meetings, the most recent a 45-21 victory in 2013.

Storyline to watch
This is the ultimate trap game for PSU, and the Lions’ approach to it will say a lot about their leadership and maturity. They have also dropped their last four road games dating back to last season, including both this fall. Their last victory away from home came last Oct. 24, against Maryland in Baltimore.

What’s at stake
The Lions can become bowl-eligible with a victory.

Penn State 35, Purdue 21

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.