Giroux shines in return, leads Flyers past Stars
The Philadelphia Flyers expected an instant impact from the return of Claude Giroux, and that's exactly what they got from their top scorer.
Giroux had a goal and three assists in his comeback from a four-game absence due to a concussion as the surging Flyers beat the Dallas Stars 4-1 Wednesday night.
Giroux received medical clearance to play last weekend, and he was inserted into the lineup after he was able to participate in Wednesday's morning skate.
"He's clearly established himself as a top player in the league," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "He missed some time and wanted to get back in there. He's capable of that. It shouldn't surprise anybody."
Giroux was out since he was injured in a game against Tampa Bay on Dec. 10 when he was accidentally hit in the back of the head by teammate Wayne Simmonds' knee.
Giroux recorded his third four-point game of the season. The last Flyers player with at least three games of four or more points in a season was Mark Recchi, who also had three during the 2000-01 season.
"It's exciting for him to play again," teammate Jaromir Jagr said. "I knew right away, first shift, he had a lot of energy."
Simmonds and Jagr added power-play goals, and defenceman Andrej Meszaros connected at even strength for Philadelphia.
Jagr has 657 career goals, breaking a tie with Brendan Shanahan and taking over sole possession of 11th on the all-time list.
Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell both had two assists, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves as the Flyers improved to 10-2-1 in their last 13 overall and 13-3-2 on the road this season.
Michael Ryder scored in the game's first minute for the Stars, who were 4-1-0 in their previous five games.
From there, the Flyers dominated.
"I think we just started to relax, play our game, get on the forecheck and make sure we didn't make any mistakes out there," said Giroux, who has a six-game points streak with four goals and 10 assists in that span. "I guess that guys really wanted to win this game.
"I had a lot of fun just playing and was kind of in Dallas' face and they were pretty much doing the same thing to us. It was a fun game and important to get those two points."
Stars rookie Richard Bachman stopped 27 shots in his sixth straight start
Ryder struck 56 seconds after the opening faceoff, firing a shot from high in the left circle that beat Bobrovsky to the glove side for Ryder's team-high 12th goal of the season.
But Giroux tied it at 8:30 of the first period when he swept a loose puck into an open net for his team-best 17th goal.
Simmonds put the Flyers in front for good about three minutes later, cashing in on his team's first power play with a deflection for his 10th goal of the season.
Jagr got his 11th goal 29 seconds into a power play, converting Giroux's return pass at 8:00 of the second period to extend the lead to 3-1.
"Jagr's kind of made a career of [scoring with the man advantage] and playing with a skilled guy like Giroux, they're going to make you pay," Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. "We got on the wrong end of it a few times and skilled guys are going to find a way."
The game was heated at times, with three misconducts and several skirmishes after whistles.
In addition, there was an incident after the first period when Laviolette shoved Dallas agitator Steve Ott in the back as the teams headed to their locker rooms.
Laviolette entered the tunnel while the Stars were exiting, and Ott felt Laviolette should have waited until the home team had cleared.
"It's disrespect of our building, just let our team off, it's not a big deal," Ott said. "He obviously thought that he has a higher power than everybody else and a little bit more arrogance. Of all the coaches in the whole NHL, that's probably the first time I've seen that.
"I would never do that if I was in Philadelphia in their building and had to walk through their lineup. Just let us go and show a little respect, that's all."
Laviolette would not address the incident, saying, "We should probably keep it about the game, it was such a big win for us."