It seems so unfair that for everything good that has happened to the Philadelphia Flyers this season, there’s a constant shadow waiting to envelop the light.
On Saturday in South Philadelphia, the Orange and Black reeled off their fifth consecutive win with a 5-2 decision over the Tampa Bay Lightning, but lost star forward Claude Giroux in the second period to what appears to be a head injury.
As if the hockey gods wanted to give us something more substantive to worry about than the moaning over the Bolts’ vaunted 1-3-1 defense, Giroux was taken off the ice late in the three-goal middle stanza after colliding with teammate Wayne Simmonds and seeing Simmonds’ knee make contact with the back of Giroux’s head.
The agony did not come before the ecstasy, as the 23-year-old notched a pair of assists to up his league-best point total to 39.
It was the thing which brought the deciding period to a halt and caused a murmur among the sellout crowd. Paul Holmgren saying that he was kept out of the rest of the contest for “precautionary reasons” didn’t do anything to pump oxygen back into the lungs of the faithful.
“Claude was obviously injured late in the second period. He was evaluated by our doctors and held out for precautionary reasons in the third period, and we’ll evaluate him tomorrow and see how he is,” Holmgren said. “Not really a headache or anything like that. This really is just the precautionary at this stage where we just didn’t want to put him back in there at that time. It’s a game in December, and obviously he is one of our better players, so were just err on the side of caution here.”
But before the doubt crept in, the Flyers turned a 1-0 deficit into a two-goal advantage. Two of those goals came in a span of 34 seconds.
On the first, Danny Briere used Mathieu Garon’s butterfly stance against him, placing a perfect shot underneath the crossbar with 2:38 played. Then, the wily veteran Jagr lit the lamp with another wicked, high shot off a Giroux dish to put Philly ahead to stay at 3:12.
The kicker came at 14: 49 on the power play, when Simmonds attempted to put a turnaround backhand pass through the crease, but the puck instead caromed off the skate of Tampa defenseman Brett Clark, rolled in the air and settled in the net over Garon’s shoulder for a 3-1 game.
The visitors did make it interesting, as Vinny Lecavalier uncorked a shot which dropped from Ilya Bryzgalov’s body on a Tampa advantage less than a minute into the third, but Carle restored order exactly four minutes later by taking a Briere feed in the left circle and ripping a wrister home.
Scott Hartnell provided the exclamation point on an empty-netter with 28 seconds to play — his fifth goal in as many games.
Tampa Bay assumed a 1-0 edge at the 11:52 mark of the opening period, as a Victor Hedman dump-in was chased down by Dominic Moore, who eventually slid a perfect pass through Flyer defenders to Ryan Shannon, all alone in front to net his second goal of the season. It was a tough chance to stop for Bryzgalov, who needed to make just 14 saves in all before being pulled late for Sergei Bobrovsky.
Garon, on the other hand, turned aside just 27 of 31 Philadelphia opportunities.
Notes: With his 10th goal of the season, Jagr tied Brendan Shanahan for 11th on the NHL’s all-time list with 656 career tallies…Bryzgalov exited with what Holmgren later qualified as a “lower-body injury”…Tampa Bay has dropped six of its last seven games…The Flyers snapped a two-game home losing string to the Lightning, and have won four of the last six meetings in Philadelphia.