PHILADELPHIA – Things could have gone in one of two directions for Claude Giroux.
He had just missed on a pair of golden opportunities to score a goal. The first, Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk waffled aside. The second, caught the crossbar.
Giroux skated to the bench and let 21 games of frustration out in one primal scream. In the process his stick, the one that has betrayed him so many times this season, was splintered in two over the dasher.
Giroux turned a deep shade of red, the hemoglobin rapidly transporting all the blood in his body to his head.
At that point Giroux could have either channel his emotion and direct it back to the ice where he could try and try again until he finally was able to put that darn puck past a goalie. Or, he could have chose to let his own anger eat away at him and cripple his game to the point that he was not an effective player.
Good thing for the Flyers that Giroux chose the former.
For in the third period, he finally took the bugger of a puck into the Oilers zone, faked a shot, got Edmonton defenseman Andrew Ference to give him a bit of a screen, and then snapped the monkey right off his back into the net for what would become a game-winning goal in a 4-2 win over the Oilers.
“There was a lot of relief and to see all the boys on the bench being happy too, I think that was really fun,” he said.
It was a spirited game for the captain. One that came on the heels of an ugly shutout loss at home Thursday to New Jersey that prompted him to hold a players only meeting in the locker room.
And like all good captains do, they back up any words they have to say with actions – and overall it was Giroux’s finest performance of the season so far. He played one second shy of 24 minutes. He took 30 faceoffs. He took 10 shots – even though only four made it on goal. He was active. He was impressive.
He was the Claude Giroux every Flyers fan expects to see.
“He played a great game tonight, it seemed like he had the puck on his stick almost the whole night,” said Scott Hartnell, who also scored in the win. “He had the breakaway, the one timer right afterwards, the empty net—so it was almost getting funny on the bench there that he hadn’t got one yet. He made a great move and that’s the old Giroux that we know and everyone has learned to love. I think he’s back now, he feels great with the puck and we have to keep that thing going now.”
Everyone was happy for Giroux. Flyers chairman Ed Snider congratulated him on the locker room with a hug and a big smile.
Players were patting him on the back and offering plaudits for his effort.
Then there’s goalie Steve Mason, a guy who has been a victim of a lack of offensive support in his mostly stellar outings. He went up to Giroux, in the locker room, threw his arm around the captain’s shoulder and offered some additional encouragement.
He was more than happy to share some of that publicly.
“It’s Awesome,” Mason said. “I couldn’t be happier for him. It’s been a tough start to the season for him. You know, he puts so much pressure on himself. For every game that he’s out there and he hasn’t scored a goal, it seemed it was weighing on him and weighing on him but you have to give him all the credit in the world because he never backed down from the games.
“He was always giving his all and for him to finally plot a huge goal, it’s great to see. I’m extremely happy for him.”
After the goal, Mason made a beeline toward the bench to congratulate Giroux on the goal. It was an unexpected congratulations, nevertheless, it was welcomed.
“Mason has kept us in a lot of games this year,” Giroux said. “Me and him have a good relationship, I go to him a lot and apologize for not putting the pucks in the net. He’s been great, he’s always pushing me and telling me to keep going, it’s going to come. So seeing him there was actually pretty cool.”
And in turn, the Flyers finally gave Mason the support he’s been looking for. Hartnell scored for the second time in three games off a pretty pass from Mark Streit, who had his best game as a Flyer as well.
Streit also set up Jay Rosehill, with a perfect pass for a redirection goal in the first period that ended a long drought at the Wells Fargo Center without a goal for the Flyers.
The Flyers set a franchise record by going 175:22 without a goal on home ice, breaking the old mark of 157:22 set in 2002. They were outscored 12-0 in that span.
But this isn’t a time to focus on the negative. When you get a goal from your enforcer and the captain snaps his scoring drought, and the alternate captain scores again after not registering a point before this week, the prize offseason acquisition on defense plays like a $5.25 million dollar defenseman should and Vinny Lecavalier keeps on trucking with his sixth goal of the season, all the while Mason is making 24 saves for his fourth win – there’s a lot to be happy about.
“It was great,” Hartnell said. “We didn’t hear a boo all night here at home which is the first time in a long time, but our efforts haven’t been great at home and we want to have a big effort, a 60-minute game and that’s something that we did tonight and we have to continue that, carry that forward.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers
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