Claude Giroux scored his 17th goal of the season and added three helpers in a 4-1 Philadelphia Flyers' dismantling of the Dallas Stars Wednesday night at American Airlines Center. By virtue of the victory, Philadelphia moved ahead of the idle Boston Bruins for the Eastern Conference lead with 46 points.
After the Flyers kept everyone guessing as to Giroux's availability for Wednesday night's contest against the Stars, Giroux made quite the triumphant return to the club's lineup. After a four game absence due to a concussion, he showed no rust whatsoever and was in on all four Philadelphia goals to re-establish the NHL scoring lead in the process with 43 points. It was Giroux's third four-point game of the season, and he now has a six-game scoring streak after posting points in five consecutive games before his injury. He has four goals and 10 assists for 14 points in those six games.
As expected it was a chippy affair, with two physical clubs battling it out for the entire 60 minutes.
Dallas got off to an early lead when Scott Hartnell turned the puck over in the game's first minute, leading to a Stars' rush the other way. Loui Eriksson hit Michael Ryder with a pass down the left wing side, and Ryder snapped a wrist shot past Flyers' starter Sergei Bobrovsky for his 12th goal of the season just 56 seconds into the contest to stake Dallas to a 1-0 lead.
That's when Giroux and Philadelphia got things rolling offensively. He scored his 17th goal of the year to knot the game at 1-1 at the 8:30 mark, knocking a Jaromir Jagr pass by Stars' starter Richard Bachman and into the net. The point moved Giroux into sole possession of the scoring lead, passing Toronto's Phil Kessel, Vancouver's Henrik Sedin, and Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, who each had all crept up to create a logjam in a four way tie with 39 points with the Philly centerman on the sidelines.
Just over three minutes later with Dallas' Vernon Fiddler in the penalty box, Giroux sent a pass to Kimmo Timonen at the point, and the defenseman's shot was deflected on the way to the net by Wayne Simmonds and past Bachman for a 2-1 Philadelphia lead.
It was actually the second consecutive game in which Simmonds was credited with his 10th goal of the season, with the marker at 18.1 seconds left in Colorado on Monday night correctly being changed to Danny Briere yesterday.
With Simmonds hitting the 10-goal plateau, that now gives the Flyers six different skaters that have hit the double-digit mark.
To put an exclamation point as to just how chippy the contest had become, Flyers' head coach Peter Laviolette shoved Stars' agitator Steve Ott out of the way as the teams were leaving the ice at the first intermission. Ott appeared to be attempting to keep the coach back as his teammates went down the tunnel to the locker room, but Laviolette would have no part of it.
The bad blood appeared to carry over to the middle frame, as the teams combined for 42 PIMs in the period, including 10-minute misconducts to Philly's Tom Sestito, and Dallas' Adam Burish and Brenden Morrow. In the aftermath, Philadelphia came away with three power plays.
During one of the man advantages, Giroux spotted Jagr in front of the Dallas net and hit him with a perfect pass. Jagr snapped a shot past Bachman for his 11th of the year, giving the Flyers a 3-1 lead at 8:00 of the second stanza.
With the goal, Jagr passed Brendan Shanahan for sole possession of 11th place on the all-time NHL goal scoring list with 657.
Bobrovsky was excellent and made a huge stop late in the second period. Radek Dvorak went in on a breakaway, but the 23-year-old Russian goalie made the save to preserve the two goal lead heading into the third period.
In the final frame, a Giroux feed sprung Andrej Meszaros into the Dallas zone, and the defenseman beat Bachman top shelf for his fourth of the season to provide the final 4-1 margin of victory.
The Stars remain tied for the Western Conference's Pacific Division lead with the Phoenix Coyotes with 39 points.
Bobrovsky improved his record to 7-2-1 for the year, while Bachman fell to 4-2-0. But the big story as Giroux's return, and his continued dominance after returning from a concussion that failed to slow him down. And for one brief moment in Dallas, he turned "Big D" into "Big G."