Giroux flips switch, leads Flyers to comeback win

RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Ruslan Fedotenko celebrates after knocking in the winning goal in overtime against the Capitals.
RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Ruslan Fedotenko celebrates after knocking in the winning goal in overtime against the Capitals.
Posted: April 02, 2013

CLAUDE GIROUX spun and fired.

As soon as the puck left his stick, and squirted through the legs of a pursuing Capital, Giroux knew it was destined for a dark place. It landed on Marcus Johansson's stick and quickly rested in the back of the Flyers' net.

Giroux had tried to recover, sliding to Johansson's shot, and his stick went flying.

Laying on the ice, Giroux buried his face in his palms, filled with disgust. Johansson delivered Washington a one-goal lead and they still had another 2 minutes remaining on their power play, on which Alex Ovechkin added to the lead only 26 seconds later.

"It was an easy play to do, ice it," Giroux after the game, still in disbelief. "I wasn't very happy. It's hard not to put [everything] on myself when I have a turnover like that."

Giroux could not remember what the feeling was like, laying on the ice, with boos raining down from the still-stunned Wells Fargo Center rafters.

The next 13-plus minutes were a blur, too.

Trailing by two goals, Giroux was determined to right his wrong. His boneheaded turnover on such a simple play somehow flipped a switch.

Rather than pout, Giroux scooped up his teammates and willed them to a thrilling, 5-4 overtime victory that just might end up saving the Flyers' season. After unraveling so spectacularly in a span of 26 seconds, Giroux provided new life. Giroux scored once himself and assisted on Kimmo Timonen's blast with 9.5 seconds left, before Ruslan Fedotenko won it 1:34 into the extra session.

"He was pretty mad on the bench," Matt Read said of Giroux. "I was trying to talk to him and he just ignored me and put his head down. You could tell his next shift was going to be his best shift of the game."

Giroux finished with a goal, two assists, seven shots, two hits, three takeaways, three blocked shots and won 56 percent of his faceoffs. Reminiscent of his first-shift explosion against the Penguins last April, Sunday was easily Giroux's best display of leadership since being named the Flyers' 19th captain on Jan. 15.

"When he plays like that, that kind of fire, he has a lot of energy," Timonen said. "Then he scored and I kind of had the feeling we had a chance to come back there."

Suddenly, a Flyers team left for dead only days ago after back-to-back losses against the Rangers and Islanders has a heartbeat. Crumbling after Ovechkin's blast would have been not only predictable, based on the way things have gone, but even understandable. And the loss would have been devastating.

Instead, the Flyers awake on Monday morning two spots higher in the standings and they're now trailing the Rangers and Islanders by only two points for the eighth and final playoff spot. After Saturday's surprising victory over Boston, the Flyers have a chance to string together their first three-game winning streak of the season on Wednesday against Montreal. They have 13 games remaining to make a miraculous run.

"It's stuff like that that we can't be worried about," Giroux said. "We have to be worried about what we have to do. Obviously, there's going to be people saying negative stuff about us. That's when you've got to make sure you block that kind of stuff out and do what you've got to do on the ice."

As crazy as it sounds, the Flyers still control their own destiny. None of the five teams the Flyers are chasing has played particularly well of late - and the Flyers have games remaining against the Islanders (two), Rangers and Hurricanes.

"Fortunately for us, other teams aren't winning that are just above us," Read said. "So, we just have to worry about ourselves, keep winning and just find ways to win games."

Finding a way to win is something the Flyers haven't done this season. Sunday marked only their second win while trailing at any point in the third period (2-11-0).

Giroux took ownership and pushed his teammates to do more. A few teammates said they saw a look in their captain's eyes that said it all.

"He is one of those guys who wants to make a difference," coach Peter Laviolette said. "I like the fact that he goes on the ice and asserts himself the way he does when you need to turn the game into a different direction. I think that has to start with your leadership and certainly Claude is grabbing that role along with Kimmo. They made sure we kept rolling and pushing."

Slap shots

Kimmo Timonen's four-point effort was the fifth of his career and his fourth since joining the Flyers in 2007-08 . . . Zac Rinaldo posted 19 hits on the weekend, including seven against the Capitals. Rinaldo set up the Flyers' first goal, scored by Max Talbot . . . The Flyers have won two games in a row five times this season, but have never pushed it to three. If the Flyers don't reach that mark on Wednesday against Montreal, it will set a franchise record for the longest they have gone to start a season without a three-game winning streak.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: philly.com/FrequentFlyers

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