Behind strong play from Giroux, Flyers shut out Islanders

Behind strong play from Giroux, Flyers shut out Islanders
February 18, 2013, 5:45 pm
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UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Claude Giroux knew his harsh words would mean nothing without actions to back them up.

And so, the Flyers’ captain stepped onto the ice Monday afternoon like a man on a mission. In just 26 seconds, he beat New York Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov to give his team the early lead they never looked back from.

With Giroux at the helm – and yet another solid performance from Ilya Bryzgalov to back him up – the Flyers departed Nassau Coliseum after a 7-0 thrashing of the Islanders.

“That’s the way he is,” Jakub Voracek said. “When he says something, he always does that.”

It was the complete-game win they desperately needed.

“It started in the first shift and ended when the horn sounded 60 minutes later,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “A real complete game in all three zones.”

The Flyers’ fortune on Monday ought to be traced back just two days, to a game in Montreal in which their compete level was all but nonexistent. After their listless loss to the Canadiens, their frustration was palpable; they seemed to be simply going through the motions.

Giroux responded by calling out his teammates to the media, and then holding a brief meeting to tell them exactly what he thought of them: that two or three guys playing well a night wasn’t going to cut it, that the Flyers all needed to adjust their attitudes. The Flyers needed to remember their identity, Giroux said.

They took it personally.

“That was the goal,” Danny Briere said. “But once again, it’s the way he takes care of it himself to start the game. We have no other choice but to follow suit. It’s huge leadership on his part.”

Right out of the gate on Monday, the Flyers dominated every aspect of the game. Giroux’s new line with Jakub Voracek and Matt Read found the much talked about chemistry this team has been lacking for most of the season. Giroux netted two goals – snapping his seven-game scoreless streak – while Read had one of his own, and Voracek enjoyed his first-ever four-point game.

The line combined for 10 points and a plus-9 rating.

“As a team, we weren’t satisfied with how we showed up every game, and how we played as a team. It wasn’t acceptable,” Giroux said. “Tonight, you saw everybody coming out, everybody was paying the price. Everybody wanted to win, it’s just a lot more fun to play like that.

“We’re going to keep playing like that.”

It wasn’t just Giroux’s new line that found the offensive success that has evaded the Flyers for much of the season, either. Briere, on a line with Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn, whom he’d had some success with late last season, added two goals of his own – one on the power play. Schenn kept his four-game point streak going, scoring on the man advantage, as well.

Special teams, which have come as a struggle for the Flyers at times in 2013, were operating just as they needed to Monday afternoon. They were 2-for-4 on the power play and killed off all five penalties they incurred. Stretching back over their last six games, the Flyers have now killed 21 penalties in a row.

“Tonight was night and day [compared to Saturday in Montreal],” Briere said. “Not saying if we play that way we’re going to win every game by a five, six, or seven goal difference, but at least we’ll be in the game.”

It’s almost hard to believe that, as good as they played, the Flyers only carried a 1-0 lead into the second period. But they might not have even been so fortunate, if not for a particularly impressive performance from the team’s penalty killers.

They were strong all game, but no more so than during a full two-minute 5-on-3 midway through the opening stanza. Momentum swings might seem silly to speak of in a 7-0 rout, but the Flyers were definitely propelled forward after keeping the Isles’ dangerous two-man advantage silenced.

“That certainly was a big lift for our, guys getting through that in a tight game,” Laviolette said, “getting through that and still having a lead.”

Harry Zolnierczyk, surprisingly dressed for the game instead of rookie Tye McGinn, set up the game’s only other goal, which was also sent home by someone whose name doesn’t frequently appear on the score sheet: Zac Rinaldo. It was his first of the year.

“Sometimes confidence-wise it can go a long way, for everybody to have the chance to chip in offensively,” Briere said, “The top two lines had a lot of looks tonight, and even Zac and Harry Z, I think it’s good for everybody’s confidence.”
They’ll need that confidence going forward, too, as a tough game against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins awaits them come Wednesday evening.

But what their thrashing of the Islanders proves is that, despite the struggles and inconsistencies of this weird, frustrating, lockout-shortened season, the Flyers do have the ability to execute Laviolette’s system. They need to remember that, going forward.

“We played with attitude tonight, a lot of intensity, and played as a team,” Giroux said. “That’s how we’ve got to play – a full 60 minutes, without letting down. We wanted to win, and I think it showed on the ice.”

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