Philadelphia Flyers

Giroux's last-second magic gives Flyers OT win

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Giroux's last-second magic gives Flyers OT win

BOX SCORE

In the goal-scoring annals of young Claude Giroux, the Flyers’ captain admits this particular goal might have been the latest to ever come off his stick during a game.

There was roughly 10 seconds left in overtime when he began racing up the ice and just 4.2 ticks left on the clock after he scored the game-winner to give the Flyers a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

“When I went on the ice, it was maybe 15 seconds … I just wanted to shoot as hard as I can,” Giroux said. “Get it to the net. To be honest, I just shot it on net.”

He shot from a hard angle in the right circle for his 24th marker of the season. This goal has to be among the biggest because it comes during the Flyers' deadly-dozen march that is going to determine their playoff fate.

Did we mention the Flyers are 18-2-1 when Giroux scores? And that they own second place in the Metropolitan Division with 79 points -- one ahead of the Rangers with the Flyers having two games in hand?

“We did a lot of good things, traffic in front of the goalie (Antti Raanta),” said Giroux, who hit two posts earlier in the game. “When you hit a post, you can get momentum a little bit and we kind of got momentum from there.”

Honestly, while the Flyers played a perfect game against depleted Pittsburgh last Saturday in winning 4-0, this was a far more competitive game given the 'Hawks had all of their aces -- Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa -- in the lineup.

The Flyers took the fight directly to the defending Stanley Cup champs and beat them. Despite a rough four-minute start for goalie Ray Emery -- his first full game action since Feb. 8 -- the Flyers neutralized the 'Hawks the remainder of the night.

Toews had two shots and Kane had five as Sean Couturier’s shutdown line worked wonders again, just as it did against Sidney Crosby.

“That’s something we’ve focused on -- playing smart defense,” said Matt Read, a winger on that line. “Defense leads to offense and when we shut other teams down it gives us opportunities to win games.”

Emery faced 25 shots and did a very good job of anticipating some of the things his ex-Blackhawks teammates do -- like Toews on a sneaky wraparound in the third period to the far post where Emery had it sealed off.

By then, Emery was well into it and feeling his game legs after a rocky start.

“Ray did a great job,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “Probably read his old teammates very well. They had some wraparounds and stuff and he was over there. He was ready for it. He did a real good job of that. He stayed composed even though we were down 2-0 right away.”

A horrendous giveaway on the breakout by Brayden Schenn gift-wrapped Andrew Shaw’s goal at 2:29 of the first period. Then a bouncing shot from the point by Duncan Keith made it 2-0.

“Razor may have looked a little shaky, but after that he gobbled everything up,” said Scott Hartnell, who scored two himself before the first period ended. “He calmed things down. We started playing after that, got some goals and won.”

Berube’s clan looks at deficits as challenges, not adversity. Mentally, the Flyers seem playoff-ready for comeback challenges because they’ve been doing it so many months just to get into the race.

“We didn’t quit,” Couturier said. “Two little mistakes, they capitalized. It was still early in the game. We knew we could come back. We’re a pretty confident team right now. We can score goals.”

Hartnell scored twice to make it 2-2 and the game stayed that way into overtime as both teams settled into a contest in which neither wanted to make a mistake and yet, the Flyers were pressing on the attack at every chance, too.

“They skated, they won battles, they won draws," Toews said. "They did all the little things they needed to do to win the game. If you ask me, they deserve to win it -- and we didn’t.

"Antti played great. We had a horseshoe, you know, where at some moments where the puck didn’t end up in our net. We didn’t get anywhere close to Razor after the first 10 minutes of the game. It’s frustrating. We didn’t do the little things again. That’s what it comes down to, it’s pretty simple.”

Schenn atoned for what appeared to be the go-ahead goal in the third period, but it was waived off for a high-stick call to Vinny Lecavalier.

Instead of getting down, the Flyers came right back at the 'Hawks and peppered the net.

“The disallowed goal, yeah shoulders kind of relaxed and it was like, ‘You got to be kidding me,'" Read said. “We have good leadership in this locker room. Everyone was saying, 'Keep going.' 

“We knew it was going to come. It’s fun playing hockey right now. We’re doing the easy and simple things out there … playing smarter defense and winning games.”

Three games into the deadly dozen, Berube’s Flyers are 3-0 with six points. The march continues Thursday against Dallas.

NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

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NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have lost top center Travis Zajac for four to six months with a pectoral injury.

Devils executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero announced that Zajac had surgery to repair the pectoral muscle on Thursday.

Shero said the Zajac was hurt last week during offseason training.

Dr. Jonathan L. Glashow performed the surgery and estimated that Zajac's recovery time could last until February. The season starts in October.

The 32-year-old Zajac had 14 goals and 31 assists last season. He has 155 career goals and 280 assists. He has played for the Devils since the 2006-07 season.

The 20th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Zajac signed an eight-year, $46 million contract in 2013.

Sabres sign Zemgus Girgensons to 2-year deal

Sabres: Team signs forward Girgensons to 2-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres have signed forward Zemgus Girgensons to a two-year contract.

The team announced the deal Thursday that carries an average value of $1.6 million.

Girgensons, from Latvia, is the last of the Sabres' restricted free agents to sign with the team. Buffalo's first-round pick in 2012 has 37 goals and 49 assists in 277 career games over four seasons.

He skated in a career-best 75 games last season after signing a one-year extension last September.

NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

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NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers have signed center Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value of $8.5 million.

The extension runs through the 2024-25 season, similar to the eight-year, $100-million extension superstar captain Connor McDavid signed with the team in July.

With the signings, the Oilers are banking on McDavid and Draisaitl providing a potent one-two punch for the team as it looks to build on last season's return to the playoffs after a decade of futility.

Draisaitl, a 21-year-old German, had 77 points (29 goals, 48 assists) last season, his third in the NHL.

He finished eighth among NHL scorers, and second on the Oilers behind McDavid.

He led the Oilers in scoring during the 2017 playoffs, posting 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 13 games.

Draisaitl was selected third overall by the Oilers at the 2015 draft (see full story).

Avalanche: Hobey Baker winner Butcher now free agent
College hockey's top player is an NHL free agent after former University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher allowed a deadline to pass without signing with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche selected Butcher in the fifth round of the 2013 draft and had until Tuesday to sign the Hobey Baker Award winner who led Denver to a national championship in April.

A person with direct knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Butcher already has had discussions with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and NHL-expansion Vegas Golden Knights. The person said Butcher has not yet narrowed his list, and is also talking with other teams.

The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

The Denver Post first reported the three specific teams expressing interest in Butcher (see full story).

Wild: Cullen comes home for 21st NHL season
The Minnesota Wild and center Matt Cullen have agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract, bringing him back to his home state for a 21st season in the NHL.

The Wild announced the deal, which includes $700,000 in potential performance bonuses, on Wednesday.

Cullen played the last two years with Pittsburgh, winning consecutive Stanley Cups with the Penguins. He played three seasons for the Wild from 2010-13, his first return to Minnesota since launching his career at Moorhead High School and St. Cloud State.

Cullen, who will turn 41 on Nov. 2, had 13 goals and 18 assists in 72 games in 2016-17 for the Penguins, plus two goals and seven assists in 25 playoff games. He has played in 1,366 career regular season games, the sixth-most among active players (see full story).