Coach Alain Vigneault called Flyers captain Claude Giroux the kind of player “who never gives up.’’
On Sunday night, both he and the Flyers refused to surrender when they were down by two goals with less than two minutes to play against the New Jersey Devils.
With goaltender Brian Elliott pulled for a sixth attacker, in almost the blink of an eye, Giroux scored a pair of goals to tie the score at 3-3.
Ultimately, Giroux would score again, this time in a shootout, paving the way for Kevin Hayes’ deciding goal in the sixth round of the tiebreaker for a hard-earned 4-3 win at the Wells Fargo Center.
Truth be told, the Devils hardly looked like a team which was coming off a nine-game losing streak. They took the play to the Flyers time after time and if not for some Elliott acrobatics, this one might have been out of reach by the second intermission.
Making Giroux’s performance even more significant: The two points give him 850 for his career, moving him past Brian Propp (849) into third place on the Flyers’ alltime list.
The Flyers are realistically out of playoff contention so comeback wins – plus the Giroux milestone – at least give them something to hang their hat on.
“I mean Brian Propp was a great player here,’’ Giroux said in a post-game media Zoom call. “Being able to pass him is an honor. Being able to win this game feels even better.’’
For a while there it looked like the Flyers might be a “streak-breaker’’ for a second time.
Recently, they allowed the Buffalo Sabres to end an 18-game winless streak, somewhat embarrassing to say the least.
But Giroux took care of that, first scoring a goal from the left hashmarks past Devils goalie MacKenzie Blackwood with 1:26 left on the clock, then poking a Sean Couturier pass into the net just 22 seconds later.
Elliott has been here a few seasons, long enough to see how special Giroux is.
“It (the record) is something you don’t even realize, he brings it every night,’’ Elliott said. “You just expect him to keep climbing up the ranks there.
“Third in scoring in such a storied franchise is pretty special. We’re all behind him. Hopefully he can keep climbing up that list.’’
Clarke tops the chart with 1,210 points, followed by Barber with 883. Giroux should be able to move ahead of Barber sometime next season.
Vigneault has been with Giroux for less than two seasons but knows what this player is about.
“There’s no doubt for our team this year it hasn’t gone the way we wanted,’’ Vigneault said. “One thing we got from our captain, he’s a hundred percent every game.
“He’s come to play, he’s come to compete. He’s been a real solid example for our group.’’
While Giroux’s eight-year contract runs out at the end of next season, there’s a good chance he will finish his career here and go down in the books as one of the greatest Flyers of all time, if he hasn’t already.
“One thing about ‘G’ is his desire to win,’’ Vigneault said. “Desire to compete. That’s what you need from your captain, that’s what you need from your driving force.
“He’s doing everything he can to steer the ship in the right direction.’’
Earlier this season, Giroux passed Hall of Famer Clarke for most games played as Flyer captain.
The two are separated by a pair of Stanley Cups back in the ‘70s. Don’t think for a minute Giroux isn’t aware of that.
“He (Giroux) is a smart young man,’’ Vigneault said. “He knows he only has so many kicks at the can left. I think he has to continue to do what he’s doing now, stay in the present, get the best of himself.
“That, in my estimation, is going to have an impact on all the players, especially the young players. At some point, he’s going to get rewarded.’’
The closest Giroux has come to a championship happened way back in the 2009-10 season when the Flyers reached the Stanley Cup Finals but lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
In Giroux’s captaincy, the Flyers have never made it past the second round for a variety of reasons, including some inconsistent goaltending over the past nine years.
Said Sean Couturier, who had the only other Flyer goal: “He (Giroux) one of the most competitive human beings out there.’’
>Provorov plays 29 minutes
In another example of Ivan Provorov’s work ethic, the young defenseman was asked to play more than 29 minutes in this game and was no worse the wear, recording a plus-3 with 33 shifts.
“Tonight we had a couple guys back there who had a hard time moving the puck,’’ Vigneault said. “We decided to shorten the bench a little bit. There’s no doubt he enjoys that challenge.’’
>Devils better than their record shows
While New Jersey is winless in 10 straight, the team is not an easy out.
The Flyers play the Devils three more times this week and know they will have their hands full.
“You see a skill level from that team,’’ Vigneault said. “I know they’re going through a tough time as far as winning games but they compete hard and they played a hard game tonight.’’
>Couturier praises Elliott
“He’s a great goalie,’’ Couturier said. “He battles hard, tonight he made some big saves. He gave us a chance to win, that’s what you want from your goalie.’’
With Carter Hart still recovering from a knee sprain, Elliott has stepped up and kept the Flyers competitive.
For the season, Elliott’s numbers continue to improve. He’s 13-6-2 with a 2.88 goals-against average.
Per NHL Stats & Information, Giroux scored the fastest pair of goals by the same Flyers player since Jaromir Jagr scored twice in the span of 18 seconds on Feb. 18, 2012. It ranks as the eighth-fastest pair of goals by the same player in franchise history, and the fastest of Giroux’s career. It is also his 30th career multi-goal game.
The game marked just the third time since the NHL started specifically tracking 6-on-5 situations at the start of the 2009-10 season that the Flyers have scored two 6-on-5 goals in the same game. The other two were April 2, 2017 at the Rangers and Oct. 30, 2017 vs. Arizona. This is the first time in that timeframe that the same player has scored both goals and the first time the Flyers have won in that situation.