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Flyers keep soaring with 5-2 win over Bolts

by Adam Kimelman
PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers got two points by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 on Saturday for their fifth consecutive win, but may have lost the NHL's top scorer in the process.

The victory was overshadowed by the loss of Claude Giroux, the NHL's leading scorer, late in the second period. Giroux fell to his knees trying to make a defensive play in the neutral zone and teammate Wayne Simmonds, who was charging up behind Giroux, tried to leap over him. He didn't quite make it, and his knee appeared to strike Giroux in the side of the head. Giroux did not come out for the third period.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Giroux was evaluated by doctors at the Wells Fargo Center, and will meet with the doctors again Sunday.

When asked if Giroux was suffering from any concussion-like symptoms, Holmgren said no.

"Not really a headache or anything like that," Holmgren said. "This is really just precautionary at this stage. We didn't want to put him back in there at that time. It's a game in December. Obviously he's one of our better players, so we'll err on the side of caution."

Giroux's two assists Saturday extended his point-scoring streak to five games, and extended his League-high point total to 39.

With the Flyers already missing top defenseman Chris Pronger indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms, losing Giroux -- who leads the team in goals, assists, points and game-winning goals, leads the team's forwards in ice time and plays on the top power-play and penalty-killing units -- would be devastating.

"He's our best player," linemate Scott Hartnell said. "He's a big catalyst for us. He's so strong on pucks, he's great defensively. Obviously we know what he can do offensively. If he's out we're going to miss him big-time."

Simmonds had a goal and an assist for the second straight game, Danny Briere and Jaromir Jagr scored 34 seconds apart early in the second, and Matt Carle and Hartnell also had goals to lift the Flyers. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 14 of 16 shots for his fifth straight win.

Bryzgalov also suffered an injury, leaving the game 6:59 into the third period with a lower-body ailment. He was replaced by Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped all three shots he faced in his first action since Nov. 26.

Bryzgalov called the injury an "old boo-boo" that began bothering him in the second period. When he tried to play through it in the third, the affected area stiffened up on him.

"It started to get sore a little bit," Bryzgalov said. "It started bothering me more and more during the game. We decided to … be on the safe side."

Holmgren said he expects Bryzgalov to be available for the Flyers' next game, Tuesday in Washington.

Ryan Shannon and Vincent Lecavalier scored for the Lightning, who lost for the sixth time in the last seven games. Mathieu Garon made 25 saves for Tampa Bay.

Shannon gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead midway through the first period. Shannon got the puck into the Philadelphia zone and tossed it to open space on the left side of the ice. Dominic Moore chased it down and threw a nice pass back across to Shannon, who scored his second of the season from in close.

However, Tampa couldn't take advantage of three power plays, getting just two shots on net.

After the third chance, the Flyers turned on the jets, scoring twice in just over half a minute.

"We played really well in the first, and for some reason, in the second period we took a few more penalties, we had a few turnovers," Garon said. "They have a great team. They came out really strong (in the second) and they were shooting the puck from everywhere."

Briere started the barrage by scoring his ninth of the season at 2:38. Simmonds started the play by tipping the puck away from defenseman Victor Hedman in the neutral zone. He grabbed the loose puck, carried it into the Lightning end and found Briere in the right circle. Briere's shot beat Garon high over his glove.

Jagr then put Philadelphia ahead when he took a drop pass from Giroux in the high slot and fired a laser over Garon's glove at 3:12.

The goal was the 656th of Jagr's career, tying him with Brendan Shanahan for 11th on the all-time NHL list. Jagr said he had a chance to talk to Shanahan on Friday during a visit to the Flyers' practice site. Shanahan, the NHL's Vice President of Player Safety, was reviewing legal and illegal hits with the players.

"He said he wanted to suspend me," Jagr said with a laugh. "I said, 'How are you going to suspend me? I don't have a hit this year.'"

The Flyers made it 3-1 with a power-play goal at 14:49 when Simmonds' backhand shot from in close hit off the skate of Tampa Bay defenseman Brett Clark and popped over Garon and into the net for Simmonds' seventh of the season.

After going without a point for seven games, Simmonds now has three goals and two assists in his last four games. After his two-point night Thursday against Pittsburgh, it's the first time Simmonds has back-to-back multi-point NHL games.

"I'm starting to get more comfortable, trying to do the little things right, and they're paying off, as of now anyway," Simmonds said. "I'm just trying to go to the net and trying to make hard, strong plays along the wall. Tonight was ... I thought it was a lucky goal, but I'll take that one."

Lecavalier got the Lightning to within one just 55 seconds into the third period when he scored a power-play goal. Carle was whistled for interference just 11 seconds in, and the Lightning took advantage after being held to just two shots on their first three extra-man chances.

Carle snapped a 13-game goal drought with a power-play goal at 4:55. Matt Read started the play by taking the puck from Eric Brewer in the Lightning end. Read gave it to Briere, who spotted Carle open in the circle. He beat Garon up high for his first goal since Nov. 5.

Hartnell hit the empty net with 28.0 seconds, extending his goal-scoring streak to a career-best five games.
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