PHILADELPHIA — It certainly was only a fitting gesture for the Flyers to win a game on a night when they celebrated the 1,000th game of Claude Giroux’s storied career.
In a season filled with disappointment, Thursday night’s come-from-behind 5-4 win over the Nashville Predators surely came as a big surprise.
Even an early 3-1 lead didn’t get many people’s hopes too high. A near-soldout Wells Fargo Center crowd had seen too many failures to know there was no safe edge to guarantee success.
A goal by Nashville’s Filip Forsberg at 1:11 of the third period broke a 3-3 tie.
But the Flyers rallied, getting a tying goal from Kevin Hayes with 4:15 to play. Then Joel Farabee notched the winner with 1:19 left on the clock,
Giroux, the center of attention throughout the evening, admitted this was far from his best game and didn’t deserve the first star he received. He also said it was a very emotional experience, especially knowing this could have been his last game with the NHL trade deadline coming up on Monday.
“During the game I was trying to keep it together,’’ he said. “I didn’t know what to expect. It was pretty awesome.’’
After the game, Giroux took a couple loops around the Wells Fargo Center ice and let the whole thing sink in. A 15-year career in a Flyer uniform had come down to this moment as teammates and fans cheered.
“I don’t get very comfortable drawing attention like that,’’ he said. “The fans, the ovation, my teammates. They’ve been so good to me for so many years. That’s one of the reasons why it was so emotional after the game. It was a fun night but. . .’’
Giroux received the team’s “player of the game’’ even though Hayes or Farabee were probably more deserving.
“I didn’t deserve it one bit,’’ Giroux grinned. “It was a fun night and to get the win made it more special.’’
Teammates commented on what the whole evening meant to them.
“He’s been the heart and soul of this organization,’’ Hayes said. “I was fortunate enough to play three years with him. He’s given everything he has to this city and it just shows how much he cares. He wants to win and even though the season hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to, he’s been a professional. We’re not sure what’s going to happen but if he does get moved I’ll have a new team I’ll be rooting for.’’
Added Farabee: “Honestly, that was probably the coolest game I’ve ever been a part of. How the crowd was in it for G. Even to see the former players before the game, how loud the crowd got. It really shows how great the fan base is here. Just to be part of a team with a captain like that, it’s a special moment. Something I’ll remember the rest of my life.’’
The Flyers thought they had a tying goal with 6:32 to play when Derick Brassard put a puck in the net. But the Predators won a challenge, stating Cam Atkinson hit the puck with a high stick seconds before the play ended.
But the Flyers were undeterred and went on to the win.
Travis Sanheim said the emotion of the evening played a part in the team’s performance.
“It was a pretty special night and a pretty special player,’’ he said. “It was an honor to witness it. It was nice to get that win,’’
Goaltender Carter Hart saw it pretty much the same way.
“The fans came out to show their support for our captain,’’ he said. “It was great to see. They were loud, they were into the game and to top it off like that, it’s pretty special.’’
As for the post-game locker room, no doubt more than a few tears were shed.
“A little bittersweet for sure,’’ Hart said. “He’s given a lot to this city and to us. If it is his last game as a Flyer – hopefully not – just kind of wish we couldn’t have given him more (this season) for sure. A pretty special night to cap it off like that for him. He’s a pretty straight-edged guy, you usually don’t see that much emotion from him. To share that night with him as a group was pretty special.’’
The Flyers took a 3-1 lead early in the second period on goals by rookie Cam York and James van Riemsdyk but the Predators struck back when ex-Flyer defenseman Phil Myers connected to cut the margin to one.
York scored on a power play at 1:22 when his short shot beat goaltender Juuse Saros. Then Van Riemsdyk worked his way into a lengthy scrum in front of the net and his low shot eluded Saros at 3:48.
Myers, who was traded to Nashville last summer, countered with his goal at 5:16.
Nashville tied the score at 3-3 in the second period after Travis Konecny committed a four-minute double-minor infraction for high sticking. On the ensuing power play, Ryan Johanson tipped a Mikael Granlund shot over Hart’s shoulder with 3:55 to play in the period.
The Flyers launched 17 shots in a fast-paced first period. Sanheim scored the only goal when he pinched into the crease and slid a shot under Saros at 7:44. Early in the second, the Predators finally got a shot past Hart. Tanner Jeannot connected at the 23-second mark.
Interim head coach Mike Yeo said Giroux deserved every bit of adulation he received.
“We’ve had some down moments (this season), this could be an opportunity to have a real good night,’’ recalled Yeo of a conversation he had with players on Thursday morning. “We responded to the adversity of the third period tonight. You saw how hard they played, they wanted to get that win for G. A lot of emotion tonight. I thought the guys competed extremely hard. We’re real happy that was the outcome. A fitting way to celebrate G and everything he stands for.’’
>The salute to Giroux
The scheduled Flyers salute to Giroux celebration began with (and later included) video congratulatory messages from radio announcers Tim Saunders and Steve Coates, plus TV’s Jim Jackson. Former teammates such as Simon Gagne, Daniel Briere, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds checked in as well as former Flyer greats Bob Clarke and Paul Holmgren. Others included Travis Konecny, Brian Elliott, Cam Atkinson, Radko Gudas and Matt Read.
Gifts presented included:
>From the Flyers organization, an engraved silver stick and a Tiffany Crystal provided by the NHL as a custom-made piece of artwork by a local artist and Flyers fan featuring his greatest moment as a Flyer.
>From his teammates, an engraved Rolex watch for Claude, an engraved crystal tennis bracelet presented to his wife, Ryanne and two engraved mini-sticks for his sons Gavin and Palmer.
>From the team’s equipment and training staff, an original piece of artwork, featuring the iconic pose of his game-winning goal in the 2019 Stadium Series against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field.
In addition, all Flyers players wore special 1,000 T-shirts in the locker room and #28 jerseys in the warmups. They featured a “1,000” patch.
Giroux franchise records include: 9,553 winning faceoffs, 2,595 shots on goal, 238 multi-point games, 11 overtime goals, eight team scoring titles, five Bobby Clarke Trophy team wins, seven NHL All-Star appearances. Also one Hart Trophy finalist…Giroux becomes the 368th NHL player to reach the 1,000-game plateau.