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.

Ben Simmons working out with LeBron James

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Ben Simmons working out with LeBron James

Ben Simmons' fellow NBA rookies may not think too highly of him, but when the best basketball player on the planet is giving him pointers, he must be doing something right.

On Tuesday, a photo of Simmons and LeBron James dribbling side by side started making the rounds on Instagram. That's right. The Sixers' number-one overall draft pick and franchise savior is apparently training with the four-time league MVP and reigning world champion.

#Klutch @klutchsports

A photo posted by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

Those workouts continued on Wednesday, when 12-time All-Star Dwayne Wade posted a photo of himself, Simmons and James, as well as Richard Jefferson and Jordan McRae. That's some good company for a first-year player to keep.

Good day of work!

A photo posted by dwyanewade (@dwyanewade) on

What does all of this mean for Simmons and the Sixers? Hard to say, but it can't be a bad thing that the rookie point-forward is spending time with a pair of future first-ballot Hall of Famers. Surely he must be learning something.

That's good news for the Sixers, who hope that Simmons can even come close to living up to the lofty comparisons some have drawn to James already.

Tonight's Lineup: Tommy Joseph starts for 1st time against Gio Gonzalez

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Tonight's Lineup: Tommy Joseph starts for 1st time against Gio Gonzalez

Tommy Joseph is back in the starting lineup … as he's expected to be for most of the final month of the season. Joseph bats fourth behind third baseman Maikel Franco.

Joseph did not start Tuesday night in the Phillies' 3-2 loss to the Washington Nationals. The 25-year-old is hitting .251 with 17 home runs and 34 RBIs.

The slugger has a significantly higher average against left-handed pitching than righties, despite clubbing 12 of his 17 homers against right-handed pitchers.

Joseph has yet to faced Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez.

In other lineup notes, Tyler Goeddel gets the start in left field and will hit eighth, while A.J. Ellis gets his second start as a Phillie. He'll catch Adam Morgan.

Here is the full lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Aaron Altherr, RF
6. Freddy Galvis, SS
7. A.J. Ellis, C
8. Tyler Goeddel, LF
9. Adam Morgan, P

For more on tonight's game, read Steven Tydings' game notes.

Villanova season preview: It's Zach Bednarczyk team now

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Villanova Athletic Media Relations

Villanova season preview: It's Zach Bednarczyk team now

VILLANOVA, Pa. — When star quarterback John Robertson suffered a season-ending injury early in Villanova’s 2015 campaign, Zach Bednarczyk was thrown into a difficult spot.

How could an inexperienced redshirt freshman be expected to replace the reigning Walter Payton Award winner? Could the Wildcats still accomplish all of their lofty preseason goals?

In the end, Bednarczyk probably handled it as well as could be expected, performing admirably in some spots (like when he spearheaded a late comeback against rival Delaware just after Robertson got hurt) and poorly in others (like when Penn upset Villanova for the first time in a century the very next week).

But now, after getting almost a full year of experience under his belt, Villanova head coach Andy Talley is expecting Bednarczyk to become a better, smarter player — and, most of all, someone who can lead the Wildcats into the FCS playoffs in Talley’s final season.

“I think the thing that he did last year was that he was a little bit of a gun-slinger,” Talley said. “He threw the ball around a little bit. Now he’s more judicious with where he throws the football, his outlet receivers. He’s not trying to gun the ball in all of the time and make a play.”

While Talley would certainly like his QB to cut down on some mistakes — he threw seven interceptions last season — he does appreciate that Bednarczyk possesses some of the same playmaking skills that made Robertson such a star at ’Nova, including the ability to gain yards on the ground.

In his first season last year, Bednarczyk led the Wildcats in rushing with 515 yards and five touchdowns while throwing for 1,396 yards and 10 touchdowns en route to nabbing CAA co-Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

This season, which begins for Villanova Saturday at Pittsburgh, Talley hopes he can match those running totals while becoming a 2,000-yard passer with fewer interceptions.

“Last year he was rookie of the year in the CAA but he really could have been an all-league player if he didn’t throw the ball in some bad spots,” Talley said. “I think he learned the hard way by having the ball go against him. In the last game of the year, we had a chance to tie for the championship and go to the playoffs if we had beaten JMU. And he threw two picks that went back for touchdowns. So he’s sort of learned his craft the hard way.”

That season-ending loss to James Madison still stings for the Wildcats, who finished with a 6-5 overall record and missed out on qualifying for the FCS playoffs for just the third time in eight years.

That’s something they hope to reverse in 2016 under the growing leadership of Bednarczyk, who agrees with his coach that he needs to become a smarter player.

“Last year I definitely took too many risks,” the sophomore QB said. “This year, although I still want to throw the ball around because that’s my strong suit, I definitely don’t want to force anything. I’ll try to cut back on my turnovers. If it looks like it’s too tight of a window to squeeze it this year, I’ll just tuck it and run.”

Bednarczyk will certainly need to be poised in the pocket with Talley admitting that the Wildcats aren’t as deep at receiver as they’ve been in years past. 

At the same time, he may not have to put too many points on the board, considering how good Villanova’s defense can be. Although the unit graduated star linebacker Don Cherry, who’s been in preseason camp with the Eagles, they still boast a veteran unit that includes linebacker Austin Calitro and defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon.

Kpassagnon, a 6-foot-7, 290-pound NFL prospect, is an especially intriguing player for the Wildcats.

“I think all the pro teams have been through to see him,” Talley said. “He can run. He’s tough. He diagnoses well. He’s in our business school, so he’s smart as can be. And he carries that over to the field.”

Kpassagnon, who was named to the CAA preseason all-conference team, is excited for his senior season but admitted that helping the Wildcats rise to the top of a loaded league won’t be easy. Villanova, which opens league play Sept. 17 vs. Towson, was picked fourth behind Richmond, William & Mary and James Madison.

“There’s no dropoff in competition throughout the CAA,” Kpassagnon said. “In some other leagues, there are a couple of teams that you know will obviously win the conference. But with ours, you never know.”

Of course, Villanova has aspirations beyond just winning the league. As always, the Wildcats — who check in at No. 23 in the STATS preseason Top 25 — will look to make a deep run in the FCS playoffs and, perhaps, try to send Talley out with his second national title.

“The goal is definitely a national championship,” Kpassagnon said. “We all believe we can do it. It’s something we have in the back of our heads.”