"It would have been a wide-open net if he caught it," Hartnell said, shaking his head.
When his shift finally ended, Hartnell was on the ice - as usual - with the Wells Fargo Center's goal horn blaring yet again. No hat trick for Hartnell, but no matter. It was Giroux who beat Gustavsson with a shot on a similar-looking rush.
Giroux skated over to Hartnell and pointed at him.
"He did a great job going to the net," Giroux said. "That's why I was able to shoot it."
One game back together as linemates, and it is as if Giroux and Hartnell never left each other. The two played together for nearly all of the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons and the first 31 games of this season before Craig Berube decided to separate his rambunctious, ginger-haired first-liners.
Reunited with Jake Voracek, Hartnell and Giroux collected three points each to carry the Flyers to an important, 5-0 shutout of the Detroit Red Wings that allowed fans to put away their inhalers ahead of a daunting, three-game West Coast swing.
The win snapped the Flyers' four-game losing skid and pushed them back into a playoff spot in the asthmatic Eastern Conference. The Flyers are now 12-1-2 this season - and 94-21-12 all-time - when Hartnell scores at least one goal in a game.
"We needed a big win," he said. "They were ahead of us in the standings. We needed to get our confidence back, our confidence high going on a really tough road trip against some big opponents out West."
It was an all-around team effort for the Flyers, who collected at least one point from exactly half (nine) of their skaters. They scored a power-play goal for the fourth consecutive game. The fourth line of Michigan native Adam Hall, Michael Raffl and Chris VandeVelde added a second-period tally. And Steve Mason bounced back with his 21st career shutout.
Hartnell called it the Flyers' "best game in probably a couple weeks."
"We knew what was at stake today, to get back on track before a big road trip," Voracek said. "I think all the guys were skating and supporting each other. We played pretty good defense and when we had a chance offensively, we scored a goal."
The Flyers have not lost to Detroit at the Wells Fargo Center since Game 2 of the 1997 Stanley Cup final - a streak of eight straight wins. They were able to take advantage of a Detroit team without Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Jimmy Howard to win their first season series (more than one game) against Detroit (2-1-0) since the 1987-88 season.
Last night, the Flyers kept a sustained offensive-zone cycle and pushed against Detroit partially because they finally played a clean game defensively.
"I think we did a better job of getting out of our zone," Giroux said. "That's why we got more chances offensively. The 'D' did a good job of getting the puck to our forwards. We played smarter. We always play hard. We put ourselves in a better position. We needed to have a better attitude, more passion. I think tonight was that kind of win."
Giroux said the Flyers' confidence finally returned after a 2-week absence, allowing them to make plays they weren't previously making.
"Come out clean and you can attack the other team with speed," Berube said. "You're not just getting it out and giving it to them in the neutral zone."
The biggest bonus for the Flyers - on the strong side of a lopsided score - was that they could rest their reunited top line ahead of their toughest tests of the season. Giroux played a season-low 14:46, more than 6 minutes below his average ice time.
"This gives us a boost going on the trip, we're going to play three really good teams, starting in Anaheim," Berube said. "It's going to be a tough three games, and I think from Mason on out, it's going to give everyone a boost."
Kimmo Timonen left the game during the second period with a "lower-body" injury and did not return. Craig Berube said Timonen "will be fine." General manager Paul Holmgren said Timonen will be re-evaluated today before the Flyers' cross-country flight . . . Steve Downie returned to the lineup after sitting Saturday as a healthy scratch. He was not wearing a facial shield for the first time since suffering a concussion in a Nov. 1 fight against Washington . . . Flyers athletic trainer Jim McCrossin worked his 1,500th NHL game.