By David Strehle
NHL Hot Stove Managing Editor
Claude Giroux scored two goals and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 23 shots as the Philadelphia Flyers topped the Montreal Canadiens, 3-1 in a Black Friday matinee at the Wells Fargo Center.
Bobrovsky and Giroux celebrate the 3-1 triumph over the Canadiens. (Photo credit: Paul Bereswill / Getty Images)
After a first period in which it appeared they may have had a Thanksgiving Day food hangover, Philadelphia turned on the jets in the second and kept their feet on the accelerator the rest of the way. The Flyers mustered just five shots against Carey Price in the opening frame, and entered the second period trailing 1-0 on a Petteri Nokelainen goal late in the first.
Peter Laviolette was obviously and justifiably displeased with his team’s play, and had some choice words for his club during the first intermission. After the Flyers were outshot in the first, 8-5, Philly thoroughly dominated the rest of the game, recording a 31-16 shot count. Included in that total was an 18-5 margin in the second.
As is so often the case, Giroux got Philly’s dormant offense kick-started in the latter stages of the middle period. He one-timed a shot from along the right wing goal line, which caromed from an impossible angle off the derriere of Price and into the net for his 12th of the season, tying the game at 1-1 with 6:49 remaining. Defenseman Matt Carle started the play by sending a shot from the left point wide of the goal and off the boards to Giroux, who has been compared to Mario Lemieux on occasion by injured teammate Jaromir Jagr. This was one of those instances, as Lemieux used the bank shot off the goalie many times during his illustrious career.
Jakub Voracek, who filled in for Jagr on the right side of the line with Giroux and Scott Hartnell, had an excellent game, and would give Philadelphia the lead. Giroux weaved through the Montreal zone, dangling the puck as Canadiens’ defenders chased in futility, then sent the puck to Kimmo Timonen. The 36-year-old Finn skated around the net and sent a pass through the slot that Voracek stepped into at the left circle, blistering a one-timer past Price at 17:45 for what would prove to be the eventual game-winner.
Even though he has been contributing offensively in other ways – he’s assisted on 12 goals in 22 games – it was just Voracek’s fourth goal of the year, and first in eight games.
In the waning moments of the second, Philadelphia was mounting pressure on the Montreal net. Marc-Andre Bourdon, filling in for injured defensemen Chris Pronger and Erik Gustafsson, delayed coming off of the ice before going for a change in order to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Following a Price save on a Braydon Coburn point shot, the puck bounced to Giroux at the bottom of the left circle, where he sent another wicked-angle shot past Price – this time beating him cleanly – with just 5.9 ticks left on the second period clock.
The difference in the Flyers effort and play from the first period as compared to the rest of the afternoon was like night and day – and Laviolette’s first intermission ire may have played a big part in that process.
“It was a good thing,” Giroux said of the coach’s much-needed words. ”I think guys weren’t ready and weren’t focused (in the first). I don’t know what was the case, but I think at home we haven’t played as well as we wanted since the start of the season. Obviously after the second and third, we kind of played the way we should have. We kind of took control of the game in the second period.”
Laviolette reciprocated the praise for Giroux, as the center continues his ascendency into the NHL’s elite.
“When you start talking about being a top player on your team and being a top player in the league,” the coach noted regarding his improvement each season, and moving towards the head of the players in the game. ”This year, I think he has really spread his wings. It goes back to the playoffs two years ago (when the Flyers made the Stanley Cup Finals). He really showed what he was capable of doing on the ice. He was consistently one of our top forwards and now he is one of the top forwards in the game.”
When all was said and done, Laviolette’s admiration of Giroux was unmistakable.
“This is a talented guy that I am talking about,” he said of his scoring leader. ”There is a lot of skill there. To me, one of his greatest attributes is his competitiveness, every inch of ice he fights for. You can just see it, its visible. Sometimes somebody can be a great player and you’re not really sure how they do it. For me, you can visibly see what he does on the ice, how much he wants it and how hard he works for it.”
It’s no secret in Philadelphia that Giroux is becoming an NHL superstar, but others around the League are taking notice.
“I think he is a tremendous player,” said Habs’ head coach Jacques Martin after the game. ”I think he keeps getting better year after year. Now he has become a leader on this team.”
The club’s much-beleagured penalty killing unit was perfect today, snuffing out all five Montreal opportunities with the man advantage.
“The penalty kill definitely did a good job,” said Laviolette, noting how they got stronger as the game progressed – even resulting in several shorthanded scoring chances for his shorthanded unit. ”In the second period they were sharp. They (the Canadiens) didn’t get a chance to set up much. There were some opportunities going the other way where we could have scored some goals. We were just a little bit more on our toes in the third period.”
Bobrovsky makes one of his 23 saves Friday. (Photo credit: Paul Bereswill / Getty Images)
Bobrovsky got the start today after shutting the New York Islanders in relief of Ilya Bryzgalov Wednesday night in the come-from-behind victory on Long Island. Though he ended the evening with just 24 shots faced, there were many of the tough variety.
“I think his best save probably came in the third period,” said Laviolette of the stop on Erik Cole. ”It was three-on-one, on the cross-ice play off the rush that they have. He came across with a low pad and was able to make a save.”
“He was sharp, handled the puck well and gave us an opportunity to win,” the coach said of Bobrovsky. ”Especially in the first period, the chances were heavy in their (Montreal’s) favor.”
While the stop on Cole was huge, it wasn’t the only big one in the final frame. Earlier in the period, Bobrovsky quickly kicked out his left pad to stop a Brian Gionta deflection at point blank range.
Price played well, also, finishing with 33 saves on 36 shots. He had completely frustrated the Flyers for the entire first half of the game, and even made some more incredible stops that gave his teammates a chance to get closer. His diving glove stop on a Voracek one-timer that was ticketed for the corner looked like a sure goal.
Injured List Continues to Grow
Forward James van Riemsdyk and defenseman Andreas Lilja’s names were added to an ever-growing list of injured Flyers.
The announcement was made before game time that van Riemsdyk was out with an upper-body injury, and would miss one-to-two weeks.
Lilja left the game early in the third period, leaving an injury-depleted blueline another man short, who are already missing Chris Pronger (virus) and Erik Gustafsson (wrist surgery), After the game, GM Paul Holmgren told the media that “Lilja has a high-ankle sprain, and would likely miss the next six weeks.”
Look for Kevin Marshall, who was recalled for one game earlier in the week and returned to the AHL’s Adirondack Phantoms, to make a return to the Flyers.
If you have any comments or questions, you can email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter – @David_Strehle
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