Giroux says he's back with impressive game in Flyers' much-needed win


Claude Giroux said he couldn't remember the last time he watched the Flyers play at home.

He didn't want to watch again.

Giroux showed his distaste for missing games by putting up a three-point night in the Flyers' 4-3 win over the Rangers on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center. Giroux was back after a two-week stint on the NHL's COVID protocol list to help the Flyers (9-4-3) quell a mini two-game skid that had followed the club's seven-day shutdown.

Similar to the Flyers, the Rangers (6-8-3) were undermanned. They never led but Chris Kreider nearly took down the Flyers himself.

• Giroux was the first player on the ice Wednesday morning for the team's optional skate. He was soaking in as much ice time as possible following a 14-day quarantine after he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The 33-year-old captain had one practice Tuesday and the optional skate Wednesday before his first game back since Feb. 7. By the look of his game, you would have never guessed he hadn't played for 16 days.

“He told me yesterday after I finished the press conference and he had talked to you that he felt good and he wanted to play," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said. "To tell you the truth, I didn’t even bother asking him this morning. He seemed ready, he seemed good."

Giroux played over 20 minutes and collected three assists, including a slick primary feed on Kevin Hayes' game-winner in the second period. Giroux has 14 points in 14 games.

"He can do that stuff in his sleep almost," Brian Elliott said. "We’re glad to have him back, he’s the leader in our locker room and on the ice as well. He comes up big."

His return was ultra timely as the Flyers were 0-1-1 without him and still missing five regulars.

"My intentions were not to play him this much," Vigneault said. "Didn’t know how he was going to react, but you could tell early on — you can tell when a player's got jump in his game, and he certainly did tonight.”

• With Nolan Patrick scoreless in his last eight games, Vigneault moved the 22-year-old center to right winger on Hayes' line with Giroux on the left side.

Patrick didn't score but he was effective and complemented the Hayes-Giroux duo. He really got after it in puck battles, as well, an aspect Vigneault wanted to see more of from Patrick.

Vigneault, who said he wasn't sure how long he'd keep Patrick on the wing, was impressed with that line. Don't be surprised to see it together for another game.

Hayes' game-winner came on a nasty shot. Including the playoffs, the Flyers are 27-1-2 in games that Hayes scores at least one goal.

“The pass was just OK. He was yelling at me, so I had to give it to him," Giroux said with a smile. "He was able to get a hold of it and there wasn’t a lot of room up there. That was a pretty goal by him."

• Elliott picked up his fourth win in five starts by making 24 saves. Under four minutes left in regulation, Elliott denied Mika Zibanejad on a breakaway to hold the Flyers' one-goal lead.

New York goalie Igor Shesterkin faced the Flyers for the first time in his career and saw 39 shots, the most by the Flyers this season.

• Offensive-minded blueliners Erik Gustafsson and Shayne Gostisbehere each netted their first goals of the season as the Flyers took a 2-1 lead at first intermission.

Gustafsson, the team's offseason acquisition who often catches flak for his defensive play, leads Flyers defensemen with nine points in 14 games. 

For Gostisbehere, it was his first goal since Dec. 15, 2019. He was super active offensively and finished with two points.

• The Rangers were also shorthanded Wednesday night. Kaapo Kakko (2019 second overall pick) and K'Andre Miller (2018 22nd overall pick) were out because of COVID protocol, while star forward Artemi Panarin was unavailable as he's on a leave of absence from the club for a personal matter involving his native country Russia.

Kreider did the offensive damage for New York by putting up the third hat trick against the Flyers this season. The Flyers allowed only one hat trick all of last season.

His third goal trimmed the Flyers' lead to 4-3 in the third period. The other two tallies came on the power play. The first was four seconds into New York's man advantage and the second was just over 30 seconds into the power play. Kreider went to the net unimpeded on both markers.

The Flyers' penalty kill entered 28th in the NHL at 71.2 percent and was 3 for 5 Wednesday night. The Flyers had a huge kill in the third period as they nursed their one-goal lead.

• James van Riemsdyk scored his seventh power play goal of the season. He had four man advantage goals in 66 games last season.

• After a bout with the coronavirus and a 15-day stint on the NHL's COVID protocol list, Justin Braun skated Wednesday and is expected to return to the lineup Saturday in Buffalo.

Braun, Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom and Scott Laughton were all out for a third straight game. Voracek was placed on the COVID protocol list Feb. 11, while Lindblom and Laughton were added Feb. 12 and Konecny on Feb. 14.

Voracek hit his 14-day quarantine Wednesday, so he could be available to skate Thursday. Lindblom and Laughton will fulfill their 14-day quarantine requirements Thursday, leaving Friday as a potential return to the ice for both forwards.

• The Flyers have a stretch of six games over nine days, starting with a back-to-back set in Buffalo this weekend on Saturday (1 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and Sunday (3 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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