PHILADELPHIA – Claude Giroux has put an early-season slump well behind him.
At this rate, the Flyers’ captain is set to be remembered more for a fantastic finish.
Giroux and Jakub Voracek each had two goals, and Michael Raffl and Steve Downie also scored to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 6-4 win over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night.
Andrew MacDonald had an assist in his first game since he was acquired from the New York Islanders. The Flyers won for the seventh time in eight games and are second in the Metropolitan Division, far removed from the team that started a franchise-worst 1-7.
Giroux didn’t score a goal in his first 15 games, but now has 23 in 63 games this season. Giroux and Voracek are hot at the right time.
“They’re the leaders of this team,” goalie Steve Mason said. “When they are going, everybody follows.”
The Flyers chased Washington goalie Braden Holtby after taking a 4-0 lead early in the second period. Holtby was replaced by Philipp Grubauer for the rest of the game—and could face some competition the rest of the season. The Capitals acquired Jaroslav Halak from Buffalo for backup goalie Michal Neuvirth and defenceman Rostislav Klesla at the NHL trade deadline earlier in the day.
Alex Ovechkin, Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer nearly rallied the Capitals with three straight goals in the third. Brooks Laich also scored.
“It’s not how we’re supposed to start the game,” Ovechkin said. “We just have to play better right away.”
Giroux continued to put a slow start far behind him as he leads the Flyers’ resurgence.
His goals in each of the first two periods gave him nine in the last 11 games. Perhaps fueled by his Olympic snub, he has nine assists over that span, and has again positioned the Flyers as a tough post-season out.
Both teams turned back the clock with a line brawl in the first period that saw Washington’s John Erskine and Philadelphia’s Vincent Lecavalier get tossed.
Philadelphia’s Luke Schenn drilled Ryan Stoa into the boards, then was confronted by Tom Wilson. Wilson, who earned a 10-minute misconduct, fought Schenn while the rest of the lines went at it near the corner boards.
Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds tried to pull off Erskine, allowing Lecavalier to get in a free shot.
The crowd went wild and helmets littered the ice during the brawl that finally ended with the Flyers short-handed.
The Flyers killed the penalty—and continued to dominate Washington. After three periods, the Flyers had outshot them 23-8.
“There was a lot of emotion the first two periods,” Giroux said. “There was a lot of good stuff.”
The ended the first period up 2-0. Sean Couturier freed the puck after a clean hit on Jack Hillen along the boards, and Giroux pounced for his first goal. Voracek scored less than 2 minutes later on a power-play goal, firing from the top of the circle.
Mike Green’s turnover early in the second led to Giroux’s unassisted goal and Hall’s fifth goal of the season came on a deflection for a 4-0 lead.
That was all for Holtby, who allowed four goals on 18 shots.
“We didn’t come out with enough to let them know that we’re here,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said.
The Capitals, just outside the playoff picture at the moment, nearly pulled off an amazing comeback.
Ward made it 4-1, Ovechkin scored his 44th goal after the Flyers failed to clear the puck, and Brouwer fired a perfect pass from Hillen past Mason to make it a one-goal game. The Capitals took 12 shots on goal in the first 11 minutes, forcing Flyers coach Craig Berube to call timeout.
Voracek gave the Flyers a needed cushion when he raced down the slot and pounded the puck past Grubauer for the 5-3 lead.
Laich deflected the puck past Mason with 6 minutes left in the game to make it 5-4. But they could never score the tying goal.
Downie capped the scoring with an empty-netter.
Both teams were busy leading up to Wednesday’s deadline. The Flyers landed MacDonald and sent defenceman Andrej Meszaros to the Boston Bruins for a 2014 third-round draft choice.
Washington made two deals Tuesday, adding left wing Dustin Penner in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks, while shipping forward Martin Erat to Phoenix.
NOTES: With Halak unavailable, the Capitals recalled Grubauer from Hershey of the American Hockey League before the game. He had been scheduled to make a personal appearance at a Turkey Hill Mini Market in Lancaster, Pa. … The Flyers won three of five games in the season series.