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Return Flight: Giroux’s unreal winner

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Five years later, it’s still hard to comprehend how he scored.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the season, we’ll be taking a walk down memory lane whenever the Flyers open their season series against an opponent. We’ll be remembering a game, goal, or highlight Philly created while playing against that particular team. It won’t always be the most notable memory the Orange and Black have against that team, but it’ll be something that Flyers’ fans will want to remember.

Over the years, Claude Giroux has been able to produce points and highlight-reel plays on a routine basis. Of the 241 regular season or postseason goals he’s recorded, Giroux has proven he can find the back of the net in a variety of ways. He can make a statement. He can make another player’s signature move all his own. He can end a game in style. Oh, he can dazzle, too. In December of 2013, Giroux proved he can do the unthinkable.

As we’ve touched on in an earlier Return Flight, the Flyers’ 2013-14 season was a pretty unique one. Following a 1-7-0 start to the year where they were lucky to grab their lone victory, Philadelphia was in the midst of their mid-season turnaround when the Columbus Blue Jackets visited the Wells Fargo Center a few days before Christmas. Although they had lost four of their previous six games, the Flyers were looking to make it two straight victories after they beat the Washington Capitals 5-2 two days prior to their December 19th meeting with Columbus.

The game didn’t look like it was going to end well for the Flyers through two periods. Despite outshooting the opposition 14-4 overall and 9-1 at 5-on-5 in the first period, Philly found themselves down by a goal.

With Nikita Nikitin in the sin bin for holding late in the opening frame, it was Columbus that would open the score. Cam Atkinson was able to pounce on a loose puck at his own blue line and looked R.J. Umberger’s way on a 2-on-1 against Braydon Coburn before he beat Steve Mason with 4:44 left in the first period.

The Blue Jackets widened their lead to three in the second period. Jack ‘Seventh Overall’ Skille potted his third of the season a little under five minutes into the stanza after he was able to lead another 2-on-1 rush for the Blue Jackets after he caught the Flyers in a line change. With only 11 seconds left in the period, Future Pittsburgh Penguin Jack Johnson made a pass to Nick Foligno in the slot, which managed to leak through Mason and dribble over the goal line to give the visitors a three-goal lead to start the final period.

Despite not receiving the bounces they may have deserved through the first 40 minutes, the Flyers forced their way back into the game over the final 20 minutes. Jakub Voracek made it a two-goal game with 15:40 left in regulation after he carried the puck up the ice and was able to circle from behind the net into the slot to beat Curtis McElhinney. Just 1:02 later, Coburn was rewarded for following the old hockey adage about getting pucks to the net to cut the deficit to one with plenty of time to tie it.

Following a Blake Comeau goal, Erik Gustafsson (aka The Gus Bus) finished a nice passing play that was started by Giroux and extended by Wayne Simmonds. Thanks to Gustafsson’s goal, the Flyers were down 4-3 with 4:39 left in regulation, which is when Giroux took over.

After he led another successful rush down the ice, Voracek managed to hit the post with a shot, which led to the puck sitting in the crease with McElhinney down at the top of the blue paint. Giroux managed to beat McElhinney to the puck and pushed it into the net with a diving attempt to tie the game with 3:46 left in regulation.

With 1:38 left in the tilt, a Mark Streit shot-pass bounced off the end boards to Giroux at the bottom of the circle, which led to this:

On this play, Giroux managed to:

  • Attempt to redirect Streit’s shot-pass in.
  • Grab the rebound and sit the puck still.
  • Get off a backhander after being checked from behind by David Savard.
  • Without looking at the net, put the shot top shelf on an unsuspecting McElhinney.
  • Put the sword in the sheath (holster the gun?).
  • Get mobbed by Streit, Scott Hartnell, others.

Obviously, a goal like this can easily be chalked up to just being lucky. However, the fact Giroux managed to put a shot on net (let alone put it top shelf) considering the position he was in when he released the attempt is impressive. It’s easy to pin the goal on McElhinney, but did anybody really expect a forward being checked to the ice while looking towards the boards to be able to roof a backhander? It’s a play where everything went right, but a large part of what went right on the play was due to Giroux’s athleticism and offensive instincts.

Seven of Giroux’s 34 game-winning goals during the regular season came during the 2013-14 campaign. This tally was one of the three game-winners he had in 2013-14 that came in one-goal games, as he provided another unforgettable close to a game in overtime against the Chicago Blackhawks in March.

The Orange and Black may have dropped the second half of their home-and-home with the Blue Jackets two days later, but they proceeded to rattle off a four-game winning streak to help them win seven of their next eight contests.

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