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.

Wayne Simmonds stars as Flyers top Predators, push win streak to 5 games

Wayne Simmonds stars as Flyers top Predators, push win streak to 5 games

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dave Hakstol likes Wayne Simmonds’ net-front play more than that of any player in the league.

The Flyers' power forward showed on Sunday why his coach thinks that way.

Simmonds’ two power-play goals in front of the crease helped extend the Flyers’ win streak to five, their longest of the season, in a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday night (see Instant Replay).

“If there’s a better guy in the league at net front, whether it’s on power play or 5 on 5, I don’t know who that is,” said Hakstol said after Sunday's victory. “He did a great job there tonight.”

Simmonds’ first goal came when he deflected Jake Voracek’s shot past Juuse Saros, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead at 18:12 of the first period.

“They had great movement around the top of the box and Jake told me to go back door if he was going to get it for a one-timer,” Simmonds said. “So I stuck my stick out back door and he hit it, and it went in the net.”

Then Simmonds batted a puck through Saros' legs for a 2-1 advantage at 6:47 of the second period for his team-leading 13th goal of the season.

“It was kind of a little bit of a cluster and the puck comes to me, and I’m alone in front of the net so I just put it five-hole and it worked,” Simmonds said.

The right wing’s father was watching in the sellout crowd of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena during the Flyers' annual father-son trip.

“It was nice, obviously,” Simmonds said. “I just went outside and saw him. He didn’t really say much to me, but I know he’s glowing on the inside.”

Simmonds has now scored 10 career goals in 20 games against Nashville.

“What I really like about Simmer is he’s at net-front, he’s scoring goals, he’s on the power play, but he’s a great, hard-nosed, 200-foot player,” Hakstol said.

Simmonds’ goals gave the Flyers an early spark on Sunday.

“It was huge,” said Flyers left wing Michael Raffl, who scored the winning goal at 16:37 of the second period when made a power move on a rush and tucked the puck past Saros. “That gives us all the momentum.”

The Flyers improved to 7-3-1 in their last 11 games.

“We’re just trying to take care of pucks and maintain the pressure that we have,” Simmonds said. “The next shift up every game is the most important shift and that’s how we’re trying to play it here.”

Predators coach Peter Laviolette, a former Flyers coach, wasn’t surprised by his former team’s power-play success. The Flyers entered the game tied for the third best power play in the league cashed in twice on seven chances on Sunday.

“We knew going in that their power play was really good,” Laviolette said. “Their players have a lot of time together and cohesiveness and they’re pretty set in what they do. They bring pucks to the net and when they do that, things can happen. That was a difference in the game tonight.”

Winning goalie Steve Mason has started 10 of the last 11 games. He made 30 saves Sunday to improve his record to 8-8-3.

“This is the situation I want to be in, so it’s a workload that all summer you prepare for even when I was not getting the work load I wanted,” Mason said. “You prepare for it and now that it’s here I’m making the most of it.”

Sources: Phillies close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit

Sources: Phillies close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit

WASHINGTON – It looks as if the Phillies will have some action at the winter meetings.

The team is close to signing veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit, sources tell CSNPhilly.com. The winter meetings officially begin on Monday. The signing is expected to be announced before the meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, is a veteran of 15 seasons in the majors. He is coming off a strong 2016 season in which he pitched in 51 games for Seattle and Toronto and recorded a 2.81 ERA.

Benoit began the 2016 season with the Mariners and had a 5.18 ERA in 26 games. He was traded to Toronto in July and gave up just one run in 23 2/3 innings over 25 games, but did not pitch in the postseason after suffering a torn calf muscle in late September.

The right-hander has pitched for six teams in his career and has a lifetime 3.79 ERA in 712 games.

Entering the offseason, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said he wanted to improve the bullpen. He opened the offseason by trading for veteran right-hander Pat Neshek and last week claimed lefty David Rollins off waivers from Texas. Now, Klentak is poised to add Benoit.

Benoit has mostly pitched in a setup role in his career, but he does have closer experience. It is unclear what role he’d pitch in for the Phillies. The Phils have Jeanmar Gomez and Hector Neris returning to the back of their bullpen in 2017. Benoit could complement that pair or the Phillies could choose to trade Gomez or Neris.

Neris pitched in 79 games in 2016 and had a 2.58 ERA, so the Phillies would only deal him if they were to get a strong package of talent in return.