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.

Flyers Weekly Observations: Dismal start to critical Western Canada trip

Flyers Weekly Observations: Dismal start to critical Western Canada trip

Another week of Flyers hockey this season is behind us.
 
And it was another week that ended with not many positives to talk about involving the Flyers.
 
There were only two games this week and neither went well. On Wednesday, the Flyers dropped a 3-1 decision to the Flames in Calgary to kick off a crucial Western Canada road trip. Things didn’t get any better the next night in Edmonton, as the Flyers were blown away, 6-3, by the Oilers.
 
Let’s take a look back at what went wrong for the Flyers out in Alberta.
 
• It’s not just that the Flyers dropped the first two games of the road trip this past week. The Western Canada trip is always a tough one, especially for teams from the Eastern Conference that have to make the long trip out there. It’s the manner in which the Flyers lost both games that has to be the most disheartening factor. They were lethargic and you just didn’t see the kind of urgency you should see from a team, that as poor as it has played in recent weeks, is still in the thick of a playoff chase in the jam-packed Eastern Conference. In Calgary, the Flyers actually did come out of the gates hot with a goal by Nick Cousins 1:30 into the game, but it fell apart from there. They had 34 shots in that game, but not many testers on Flames goalie Brian Elliott. The next night in Edmonton, the Flyers were just overwhelmed and steamrolled from the second the puck dropped. It was all Oilers and the Flyers were just standing by. At the end of the day, the Flyers are still alive in this playoff race and you’d like to see the urgency that comes along with that.

• If there was one thing that summed up the Flyers’ lack of apparent urgency this past week, it had to be that ugly five-minute power play that included a two-minute two-man advantage Wednesday night in Calgary. Ugly would actually be quite the compliment. It was downright brutal. First off, the Flyers were handed a gift because Alex Chiasson’s spear on Cousins was not a major penalty. Chiasson shouldn’t be spearing anyone, but that was a love tap compared to some others around the league this season. But the Flyers fumbled that gift away with a power play that was basically a practice drill for the Calgary penalty killers. The Flyers slogged around in the neutral zone or unsuccessfully dumped the puck in or turned it over. It goes back again to urgency. The best power plays feel the urgency to score every time out on the ice. It just wasn’t there Wednesday night with the low-percentage cross-ice passes and inability to track down the puck. The Flames had 11 clears compared to two shots for the Flyers. It was as disappointing as a power play can be. Over the last six games, the Flyers’ power play is just 2 for 19. That is not helping with the scoring woes.
 
• Hopefully this Connor McDavid-Brandon Manning nonsense is now over after Manning answered the bell and fought the much larger Patrick Maroon on Thursday in Edmonton. The whole thing was dumbfounding to begin with. McDavid lost an edge while Manning was defending against him last season when he broke his collarbone. It should have ended right then and there because for someone to even insinuate intent on Manning’s part or anything other than that it was an unfortunate play would be asinine. It continued to be dumbfounding when McDavid stirred the pot during and after December’s meeting between the teams. For it to even reach the point it did Thursday was just stupefying. And Milan Lucic’s low blow on Manning behind the Flyers’ net Thursday was cheap, to say the least. But good for Manning to stand up to Maroon.

• If there was one positive to take from this past week, it had to be the play of Cousins in Calgary on Wednesday. He was all over the ice. He was making plays happen with five shots on net, bringing energy and being a pest. He’s at the top of his game and most effective when he brings that energy and pest behavior. The goal he scored was well-deserved and he should have had another one if not for the great save Elliott made at the end of that long, wretched Flyers power play. If Cousins can play that effective way more consistently, he can be a valuable piece going forward for the Flyers. Most of the good teams in the league have that one player other teams just hate to play against.

• I also like what Cousins had to say in the locker room after the loss Wednesday. “We’ve got to make it harder on them,” he said. “We’ve got to get more traffic. It’s the same excuse here it feels like after every game. We’ve got to score more goals — simple as that.” He didn’t massage his way around anything, He came out and stated bluntly what’s going on right now. The Flyers can talk about playing good hockey and not getting the results. But the results come when you earn them. Can we say that about the Flyers earning results the past few weeks? Against the Sharks last Saturday, sure. But any other games?

• Shame that Jordan Weal was injured in Thursday’s loss to the Oilers. He was doing everything he could to try and provide a spark. He was bringing some of that much-needed energy and, more importantly, trying to make things happen by firing the puck toward the net. He had a team-high six shots on goal Wednesday in Calgary. His combination of speed and skill makes him an intriguing player going forward. The Flyers have to hope he recovers sooner rather than later so they can get an extended look at him with the big club.

• Is the offside challenge working as effectively as it should? It sure looked like the Oilers were offside before the opening goal of Thursday’s contest. But the league still ruled it a good goal. And you may recall the eight-minute delay in the Chicago-Minnesota game a few weeks ago as officials reviewed an offside play before a goal. In essence, offside is a pretty cut-and-dry rule. The play is offside or it isn’t. I’m not crazy to say there shouldn’t be this much grey area on a pretty cut-and-dry rule, right?

Coming up this week: Sunday night at Vancouver (10 p.m./CSN), Wednesday vs. Washington (8 p.m./NBCSN), Saturday’s Stadium Series game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh (8 p.m./NBC10).

Flyers-Canucks 5 things: Claude Giroux’s regression a cause for concern?

Flyers-Canucks 5 things: Claude Giroux’s regression a cause for concern?

Flyers (27-24-7) at Canucks (26-27-6)
10 p.m. on CSN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 9:30

The Flyers’ three-game trip through Western Canada ends tonight in Vancouver against the Canucks, as the orange and black will look to salvage one win on this disastrous road trip.

Vancouver enters the game on the backend of a back-to-back. The Canucks beat Calgary, 2-1, in overtime Saturday at Rogers Arena. The Flyers beat Vancouver, 5-4, in a shootout on Jan. 12.

Let’s take a closer look at game No. 59 for the orange and black.

1. Captain concern
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Since their 10-game winning streak, from Nov. 27 to Dec. 14, the Flyers’ season outlook has undergone a drastic shift toward a higher draft pick.

The Flyers are 8-14-4 in 26 games since the winning streak, and 2-5-1 in their last eight games. They’re 2-10-2 in their last 14 road games, and have lost their last eight games in Western Canada. They remain just two points out of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, but earning a playoff appearance appears to be just a wishful thought.

Not much is going well right now for the Flyers. Neither Michal Neuvirth or Steve Mason has taken grasp of the No. 1 job. Neuvirth has started six of the Flyers’ last seven games and seven of their last nine. Neuvirth will start again tonight.

They can’t score. They’re averaging 1.46 goals in their last 13 games, scoring 19 goals over that span and they’ve been shut out three times. Claude Giroux’s regression continues, as he has just two goals in his past 23 games. Giroux is on pace for 59 points, which would be the fewest he’s had in an 82-game season since 2009-10. (He finished the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season with 48 points in 48 games.)

“For whatever the reason, in the last month, he’s just gone in the wrong direction,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said of Giroux on Saturday. “That’s not just [the] individual. That’s a team item, and we’ve gotta push that in the right direction.”

As the captain has gone, the Flyers have, too.

2. Weal bad luck
Just as when it appears Jordan Weal had finally turned a corner in the NHL — albeit it in a very small sample size — an injury strikes. Weal will miss tonight’s game with an upper-body injury. The Flyers said Saturday the forward will be reevaluated Monday.

Dale Weise draws back into the lineup against Vancouver, and will take Weal’s place on the Flyers’ second line alongside center Sean Couturier and right winger Jake Voracek. Weise checks back in after sitting the last two games and seven of the last 12 as a healthy scratch.

Weal impressed in two games and a period before suffering his injury Thursday in Edmonton. He’s averaged 11:50 of ice time, playing a career-high 15:31 Wednesday in Calgary, a game he had six shots on goal. Through three games, Weal has an 83.0 corsi for percentage, which is remarkably high but an extremely small sample. He was more confident along the boards and with the puck, hungrier than at any point last season with the Flyers.

It was only a matter of time before the 24-year-old was going to pick up his first career NHL point. Now, he’s sidelined at least one game. If it’s not a long-term injury, Weal’s play in the two-plus games should be enough to warrant inserting him back in when he’s healthy.

“He added something every game,” Hakstol said of Weal on Saturday. “Obviously, it was two games and a period, but he’s dynamic. He hadn’t been here [this season], but he had the puck quite a bit. He looked like a player that was confidently on the top of his game, and I didn’t think any of that was lost in the transition from Lehigh to our team.”

3. Mediocre matchup
The Canucks are not exactly a team oozing with confidence, either. With Saturday's OT win over the Flames, the Canucks are now 4-8-0 in their last 12 games. They are four points behind Calgary now for the West's second wild-card spot, and gave up a valuable point to the Flames on Saturday by blowing a 1-0 lead with six seconds left in regulation.

Vancouver sits in the bottom 10 in goals for (2.3, 28th), goals against (2.8, 20th), power play (14.9, 27th) and penalty kill (79.1, 24th). It's a team that doesn't score a ton of goals, but also doesn't give up many, either. It's the epitome of a below-average team from a talent perspective — sound familiar? — that can grind its way to competitiveness.

With how the Flyers have been playing over their last two months and how this current Canucks team competes, it's safe to say tonight's game will be one filled with little scoring, a much different tune than the first matchup.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: There is not a single Flyer worth watching right now. I suggest making one of those origami fortune teller games with a list of Flyers, play it and whoever you get, watch him.

Canucks: Vancouver’s leading scorer is no longer one of the Sedin twins. Instead, it’s 21-year-old Bo Horvat, who has 18 goals and 39 points in 58 games. Horvat, the ninth overall pick in 2013, made his first NHL All-Star Game this season. In the previous meeting with the Flyers, he picked up an assist.

5. This and that
• Lineup change: Andrew MacDonald will be a healthy scratch, along with Nick Schultz. Brandon Manning will move to the left side to the right side, and is expected to play with Ivan Provorov.

• The Flyers’ power play is five for its last 45 dating back 13 games.

• Friendly reminder: Shayne Gostisbehere’s goal drought is now at 31 games.