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Giroux's return bolsters Flyers in 4-1 win

by Steve Hunt
DALLAS -- Claude Giroux picked up right where he left off.

Giroux returned from a four-game absence due to a concussion and had a goal and three assists as the Philadelphia Flyers polished off the Dallas Stars 4-1 at American Airlines Center on Thursday night.

"I had a lot of fun just playing," Giroux said. "It was a fun game and important to get those two points."

Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves as the Flyers (21-8-4) ended a two-game losing streak.

"What a huge win for our organization tonight," Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said. "We get one of our top players back and a chance to move into first overall in the Eastern Conference."

Giroux had a goal and an assist in the first period and an assist in each of the final two periods to reclaim the NHL scoring lead with 43 points. He had been out since Dec. 10 when he was kneed in the head by teammate Wayne Simmonds and was termed a game-time decision by Laviolette this morning.

"He was real good," Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said of Giroux's performance. "He made some nice plays. You can tell why he's an elite player."

Laviolette agreed.

"He's clearly established himself as the top player in the League," Laviolette said.

Philadelphia improved to 13-3-2 away from home, the best road record in the NHL.

While Giroux's return was clearly the story of the night, it was the Stars who struck first. Only 56 seconds into the game, Dallas led 1-0 after Michael Ryder beat Bobrovsky high on the glove side with a 30-foot wrister from the top of the left circle.

Dallas (19-13-1) held that lead until Giroux scored his 17th goal of the season at 8:30. He knocked in a rebound at the far post after a shot by Jaromir Jagr was stopped by Dallas goaltender Richard Bachman, tying the game at 1-1.

Just 45 seconds after the Stars' Vernon Fiddler was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct midway through the period, Giroux assisted on a power-play tally by Simmonds at 11:36 to give the Flyers their first lead. Kimmo Timonen's long-range slapper was deflected into the back of the Dallas net by Simmonds for his 10th goal of the season.

"I think [after Dallas' early goal] we just started to relax, play our game, get on the forecheck and make sure we don't do any mistakes out there," Giroux said.
The Stars were without veteran defenseman Stephane Robidas after he took a puck to the skate this morning and was unable to go. Adam Pardy started in his place alongside Robidas' normal defensive partner Sheldon Souray.

Philadelphia took a two-goal lead at 8:00 in the second period thanks to a power-play goal by Jagr. Just 21 seconds after Souray was whistled for slashing, Jagr and Giroux executed a give-and-go to perfection with Jagr finishing the sequence by beating Bachman with a wrister from the slot that the rookie goaltender had little chance of stopping.

It was the 657th goal of his career, moving him past Brendan Shanahan for 11th all-time.

Another story of the second period was the 42 penalty minutes amassed by both clubs. Dallas had a pair of 10-minute misconducts, one to Adam Burish and another to captain Brenden Morrow, while the Flyers' Tom Sestito was whistled for a similar infraction after a pre-faceoff confrontation with Burish.

Those penalties came following an incident after the first period when Laviolette shoved Dallas agitator Steve Ott in the back as the teams headed to their locker rooms.  (WATCH)

Laviolette downplayed the incident afterward.

"I think it's hockey out on the ice," he said. "We just had a big win to move back into first place in the Eastern Conference. We should probably keep it about the game because it was such a big win."

The Flyers added an insurance goal at 5:22 of the third period when defenseman Andrej Meszaros scored his fourth goal of the season, burying a 15-foot wrister that beat Bachman on the blocker side. Giroux got the primary assist on the tally, feeding Meszaros as he was streaking up the left side of the ice towards the Dallas net.
For the game, Philadelphia was 2-for-5 on the power play, a performance which their coach was clearly pleased with.

"The power play was excellent tonight," Laviolette said. "They moved the puck. There was a lot of zone time. They did a good job moving it around. We haven't had a lot of time to work on it but we touched on it a little bit and I thought it was real effective tonight."

Dallas was 0-for-3 with the man advantage and is now just 3-for-20 (15.0 percent) in its last five games.

"I thought they capitalized on their power plays and we didn't capitalize on ours," Gulutzan said. "Five-on-five, I thought the game was pretty even. Just specialty teams came into play and they beat us at that game for sure."

Both teams return to the ice on Friday for their final game before Christmas. The Flyers will face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden while Dallas will host Nashville to cap a three-game homestand.
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