Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Giroux nets OT winner, Flyers rally past Sabres

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

Claude Giroux is staking his claim for Hart Trophy consideration and the season isn't one-third complete.

On Wednesday night, he helped kick-start a moribund Flyers club which found themselves down 3-0 late in the first period, eventually netting the game-winner with 2:23 left in overtime for a 5-4 victory in Buffalo.

Giroux was able to gain control of the puck inside his own zone thanks to an errant cross-ice pass from Buffalo defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani and was allowed space up the middle of the ice. He broke free and cruised to the Sabres goal, beating Ryan Miller through the pads to end the game.

It capped a four-point contest for the 23-year-old, who helped Philadelphia recover from its second multi-goal deficit on the road in five days and vaulted into the NHL scoring lead.

In 26 games, Giroux has amassed 16 goals and 36 points -- one ahead of idle Phil Kessel of Toronto. He recorded his third straight game-winner and tied Detroit's Johan Franzen for the league lead in that category with five this season.

Jaromir Jagr, Scott Hartnell, Matt Read and Max Talbot also tallied for the Flyers, winners of three straight and five of six.

Ilya Bryzgalov shook off a poor first period to make 20 saves in the win.

Adding to the festivities were several key records the club managed to tie and set with their comeback:

  • According to Elias Sports Bureau, it marked the third time in franchise history the Flyers rallied from a three-goal deficit to win twice in one season. The previous two times occurred in 1979-80 and 1991-92.
  • Elias also revealed that, coupled with the rally from a 3-0 deficit in Anaheim on December 3, it was the fastest in franchise history that the Flyers have accomplished the feat.
  • The previous quickest happened over 73 days between December 6, 1979 (a 9-4 win over LA) and February 17, 1980 (6-5 win at PIT).
Thomas Vanek, Ville Leino, Drew Stafford and Zack Kassian lit the lamp for the Sabres, who have dropped six of eight. Miller, who was assailed all night and had to take two hard and high shots off his mask, made 29 stops in defeat.

Buffalo took a 1-0 lead while a man up just after the midway point of the first period, when former Flyer Leino finished off a three-way passing play with a tap-in to an open net. The strike was quick, and all three players involved -- Kassian, Luke Adam and Leino -- touched the puck within 20 feet of each other in front of Bryzgalov, who was nowhere near the successful shot.

Miller came up huge minutes later, poking the puck away from Jagr on his breakaway chance before the veteran could make a move.

Kassian then moved up the middle and ripped one home from between the circles with 1:05 left in the period, and it was 3-0 on a power play with 22.5 seconds to go after a Vanek shot slipped between Bryzgalov's arm and body.

But the visitors never stopped playing despite the circumstances, and salvaged some respect as Talbot swept in a Jakub Voracek pass from the right side just before time expired in the opening period.

It was a harbinger of things to come, and a reminder of how they faced a similar situation in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series last Easter and still came back to win.

The Flyers reduced their deficit to one at 5:17 of the second when Kimmo Timonen's point drive was tipped by Read -- once again staking his claim to the Calder Trophy if only in the minds of the experts on the East Coast -- and the puck slithered its way through Miller and over the goal line.

Hartnell tied the game at 14:45 as his floater from the outer edge of the right circle deflected off Buffalo defenseman Christian Ehrhoff's shin pad and sailed between Miller's shoulder and the near post.

Jagr then atoned for his earlier mistake with 2:12 to play in the second. He took a short feed from Giroux outside the Buffalo zone, stickhandled through a pair of defenders and picked up his ninth of the year on a rising wrister at the bottom of the left circle for a 4-3 Philly lead.

Bryzgalov made a quick left pad stop in crease as Stafford attempted a turnaround shot with 3:40 to go, but the Sabres cashed in a short time later.

Miller was sent off for an extra attacker with 1:45 left and Stafford poked home a Jason Pominville feed for a 4-4 tie on the next offensive opportunity.

Notes: Giroux tied a season-high with three assists, and his four points also matched a season-best first accomplished in a 5-1 win over Carolina on October 29...Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk returned after a four-game absence due to an upper-body injury...Wednesday was Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette's 47th birthday and forward Sean Couturier turned 19...Philadelphia improved to 10-3-1 on the road this season and has taken seven of the last nine meetings in Buffalo since February of 2008...Sabres forward Nathan Gerbe left the game and did not return after absorbing a check from Flyers defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon.

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