Since Olympic snub, Giroux on a different level

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Since Olympic snub, Giroux on a different level

Some have suggested Team Canada’s Olympic snub of Claude Giroux is the real impetus in the meteoric rise of his game since Dec. 11.

Since that date, Giroux is No. 1 in the NHL with 51 points. Since Jan. 4, he has 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points in 27 games.

That latest point total includes the two he picked up Tuesday night with an assist and game-winning overtime goal to lead the Flyers past the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-2 (see story).

Giroux’s 24th goal brought down defending Stanley Cup champs at the Wells Fargo Center.

“He’s been a tremendous leader as of late,” teammate Matt Read said. “Since the Olympic break he’s the hardest-working guy everywhere you go. He’s the first one here every day and in his mind it’s win, win, win at all cost.

“And any mistakes you make you hear about it on the bench from him. He just wants perfect from everybody, and his game has shown a lot. He’s on the ice, he’s working harder than everybody out there. It’s fun to watch how talented he is. He’s being a true leader right now and that’s what we need in this last push here.”

Giroux's two points moved him past Ron Sutter into 20th place on the Flyers’ all-time scoring list. Giroux now has 115 goals and 247 assists for 362 points in his NHL and Flyers career.

Which makes his game-winner that much better.

“I think it was a fun game to play,” Giroux said. “I’m sure it was a fun game to watch also, but I think we were just enjoying ourselves out there, just playing some hockey. It was rough, we got a hit, we were hitting, and that’s the best part of hockey.”

Scott Hartnell had the two previous goals.

“You could tell he wanted it,” Hartnell said. “He was skating pretty hard. It seems like he finds a way to get his shots through most of the time. He absolutely got off a rocket there.”

Hawks goalie Antti Raanta went down after the puck was already in the net.

“He didn’t even know it went in,” Hartnell said.

The Flyers and Giroux have had so many good games at home this season, it becomes difficult to define the fine thread that separates good from very good.

This much is certain: The Flyers recognized the danger this team presents off transition and made sure not to give Chicago any help in generating offense.

"I think they’re a team that if you do mistakes, they’re going to put it in our net,” Giroux said. “I think we were pretty responsible defensively. Coming into this game, that was the one thing -- we wanted to play good defense. When you play good defense, your offense is going to follow.”

Flyers coach Craig Berube and others say Giroux has become vocal in the dressing room, too.

“I mean he’s really been playing hard, really skating, attacking, he’s leading our team,” Berube said. “I think it starts on the bench, he’s vocal, he’s really into it all the time, does a very good job of keeping everybody going.”

NHL Notes: Rangers' Kevin Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

NHL Notes: Rangers' Kevin Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Kevin Hayes will miss two to three weeks with a lower-body injury.

The team announced the timeline Monday after Hayes underwent an MRI in the morning. Hayes left the Rangers' game Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period.

Hayes had seven points in his previous six games and is third on the team in points with 35. The 24-year-old has 13 goals and 22 assists in 47 games this season.

His injury is a major blow to New York, which holds the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The silver lining for the Rangers is that Hayes will miss fewer games because of the upcoming All-Star break.

Senators sign Zack Smith to 4-year, $13 million extension
OTTAWA, Ontario -- The Ottawa Senators have signed forward Zack Smith to a four-year contract extension worth $13 million.

The Senators said that the extension goes through the 2020-21 season and carries an annual average value of $3.25 million.

Smith, 28, has 11 goals and 11 assists in 43 games this season and is averaging a career-high 16 minutes, 13 seconds per game.

He set career highs with 25 goals and 36 points in 2015-16. He has 75 goals and 61 assists in 443 games, all with the Senators.

Smith was Ottawa's third-round pick (79th overall) in the 2008 draft.

Dave Hakstol: Flyers 'played a full 64 minutes' in OT win over Islanders

Dave Hakstol: Flyers 'played a full 64 minutes' in OT win over Islanders

VOORHEES, N.J. — When a team is on a downward spiral where there’s little evidence of things improving, sometimes it takes an extraordinary effort to turn things around.
 
The Flyers got just that during Sunday’s 3-2 overtime victory in Brooklyn against the Islanders. To a man, you could see just how much that game meant to this group.  
 
You’d be hard-pressed to find a single player who didn’t dig a little deeper, as the Flyers snapped a nine-game losing skid on the road. They had lost five of six overall.
 
One play was symbolic of the victory and what it took for the Flyers to halt a three-game losing skid and erase memories of Saturday’s disastrous 4-1 loss to the Devils on home ice.
 
Midway through the third period, the Flyers’ PK units had to kill off consecutive penalties – the only power plays the Isles had during the game.
 
The first penalty kill really stood out as Ivan Provorov was in the box for hooking. The Isles had unrelenting pressure on Andrew MacDonald, Radko Gudas, Chris VandeVelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare for one minute and 43 seconds.
 
That unit played the entire kill and couldn’t get the puck out of the zone.
 
Goalie Steve Mason made four saves – three on John Tavares – while the Flyers had three blocked shots and one enormous clear at the end by Bellemare.
 
Thoroughly exhausted and chasing the puck up the right boards near the Flyers’ bench, Bellemare dove flat out with his stick extended to push the puck out of the zone at the blue line and down the ice.
 
Bellemare, who logs more shorthanded minutes than any other Flyers forward – he had 2:43 in this one – was so drained physically, he could barely lift his body over the side boards. He actually rolled himself over.
 
It was almost reminiscent of Sami Kapanen in the famed 2004 Game 6 semifinal playoff series at Toronto, where Keith Primeau had to fishhook Kapanen off the ice because he was concussed and had collapsed near the boards.
 
Bellemare’s extraordinary effort was typical of what it took for the Flyers to rise above their own self-inflicted mistakes of late for an emotional victory and key two points that got them back into the second wild card.
 
“We only had to kill two minor penalties, but we had to kill both in the last 10 minutes of the third period of a back-to-back,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “The extra effort on that kill, there’s a couple saves there that Mase made. 

“There’s a couple goal mouth scrambles where it’s all hands on deck battling down there. There’s a couple shot blocks by Belly and Vandy that stand out and then just the second effort to get the puck out of the zone and get off that kill, those are important things. 
 
“Obviously you have to have those to win games and I thought we had a lot of second effort, good effort in a lot of areas of our game.”
 
The emotion generated on the bench spilled into the overtime, where they won on Claude Giroux’s first goal in 12 games.
 
Now the critical question is, can this kind of performance have a carryover effect Wednesday night in New York against the Rangers.
 
“I think you can get some, you know what I mean?” Hakstol said. “I’m not a big believer of carrying momentum necessarily from one game to the next.
 
“But I think there’s a significance to the fact that we played a full 64 minutes and we had everybody contributing. I think that’s significant for us and I think that’s something we can carry forward.”
 
Incidentally, Hakstol used eight forwards in overtime, something he usually doesn’t do. Even rookie Travis Konecny got on the ice, which hasn’t been the case most times this season. 
 
“We’ve used seven or eight forwards before but specifically [Sunday] night on a back-to-back where we’ve got a lot of guys that are going pretty well, we used a lot of guys that are part of our 3-on-3 rotation quite often,” Hakstol said.
 
“But we also last night used Belly, who’s played regularly, with Cousins. They were our fourth pair on the rotation. Ultimately, if you look at it, we scored the game-winning goal against a tired group that the Islanders had on the ice.”
 
Tavares had gone up and down the ice twice – Mason made a tremendous glove save on him before the game-winning shift. Hence, Tavares was gassed when Shayne Gostisbehere came up ice with Jakub Voracek, went around the net and hit Giroux in front for the game-winner.
 
“Our guys did a good job,” Hakstol said. “They were all moving and going. We get a great save on the breakaway and that buys us the chance to go back and get the play at the other end.”
 
Loose pucks
Only five players took the ice for Monday’s optional skate after the 12th set of back-to-back games. … Players on ice were goalie Michal Neuvirth plus skaters Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Dale Weise and Roman Lyubimov. … The Flyers play back-to-back this week one more time before the All-Star break. After the Rangers, they have Toronto at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday, where the wild card will again be at stake.