Giroux beats the clock

STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Claude Giroux is congratulated by Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier after game-winning goal.
STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Claude Giroux is congratulated by Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier after game-winning goal.
Posted: March 20, 2014

TIME WAS running out.

Claude Giroux scooped up the puck just inside the Flyers' blue line with just 9.7 seconds left in overtime - and a daunting shootout against the NHL's No. 1 offensive team looming a few ticks away.

Giroux, emphatically inserting his name into the Hart Trophy race, wasn't about to let an all-important match for the Flyers come down to a game of chance.

"I knew there wasn't much [time] left, from the timeout we had just taken," coach Craig Berube said. "I was ready to pull my lineup card out for the shootout. It was a great shot. He's a determined guy."

Giroux motored across the Chicago blue line and, using Duncan Keith as a screen, snapped off a rising shot that pinged the top left corner behind Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta - with a whole 4.2 seconds left to spare.

"I just tried to shoot it as hard as I can,'' Giroux said.

With the help of two first-period goals from Scott Hartnell, Giroux's heroics capped off a thrilling, 3-2 overtime win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks last night at the Wells Fargo Center. Giroux has 50 points in the 37 games since the last time the Flyers played the Blackhawks on Dec. 11, most in the NHL over that span.

"You could tell that he wanted it," Hartnell said. "He was skating pretty hard. It seems like he finds a way to get shots through. He let off an absolute rocket there. The goalie didn't even know it went in."

In overcoming an early, 2-0 deficit against the Blackhawks, the Flyers were able to earn redemption for an ugly, 7-2 whipping on Dec. 11.

This game, played in the heart of a playoff chase, meant just a little bit more.

Not only did the Flyers earn an important two points in the standings, they also got help from others in that department last night. Both Columbus, which had been red hot on their heels in the Metropolitan Division, and the Devils lost in regulation. The pesky Rangers stormed back to win in Ottawa, but the Flyers still hold two games in-hand over New York in addition to their one-point edge in second place.

According to SportsClubStats.com, which uses an algorithm based on strength of schedule remaining, the Flyers increased their playoff probabilities to a season-high 89.3 percent with their win.

Last night marked the Flyers' 10th consecutive regular-season win over Chicago at home, dating to Nov. 9, 1996.

With the win, the Flyers prevented Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville from earning his 700th career victory - at least for one night.

Based on the first 4 minutes, it didn't appear that would be the case, as Andrew Shaw and Duncan Keith both bested Ray Emery in just 3:51 to give Chicago a 2-0 lead.

It was Emery's first start since Feb. 8, his first appearance in a game since Feb. 27, and his second test against his former team this season. Emery was pulled after allowing six goals to the Hawks on Dec. 11. With the first two goals last night, that meant he'd allowed eight goals against in 44:56 and 22 shots against the Blackhawks to that point this season.

But Emery - and the Flyers - rebounded quite nicely over the final 61 minutes of regulation and overtime. The Flyers outshot Chicago, 26-20, to close out the game.

"I have a system that I rely on, so I knew it was going to come around," Emery said. "I just had to stick to it. But it was definitely a tough start."

Now, three games in to a 12-game hellacious slog in which nearly every contest is against a current playoff team, the Flyers have picked up three wins and all six possible points. The Flyers are far from out of the woods - or even locking up a playoff spot - but they are proving what they have believed for a long time: They belong with the elite.

"We can look at it two ways, like, 'Oh geez, we're scared of these teams, and if we go .500, maybe we'll make the playoffs,' " Hartnell said. "I think our attitude is, 'Let's see how good of a team we are.' We had a great weekend against Pittsburgh, a top team in the East. Chicago, a top team in the West, we came out and battled hard for most of the 60 minutes."

Slap shots

The Flyers are 18-1-2 when Claude Giroux scores a goal this season. They have won 13 straight games when he registers at least one point . . . Kimmo Timonen celebrated his 39th birthday yesterday with some teasing from teammates for being the Flyers' elder statesman . . . Incredibly, 20 of Chicago's 69 games this season have gone to overtime or the shootout (5-15) . . . Chicago was without forward Brandon Saad (upper-body) and defenseman Michal Roszival (lower-body).


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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