PHILADELPHIA — Claude Giroux was lucky to even be playing in Monday night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers’ captain took an ugly hit from Martin Hanzal late in the third period Saturday night in a loss to Arizona. His head hit the boards and he did not return, but he was fit enough to play Monday despite not skating during an optional morning skate.
And good thing for Philadelphia he did.
With 13.6 seconds remaining in overtime, Giroux beat goaltender Ondrej Pavelec to give the Flyers a much-needed 3-2 win over the Jets.
In transition, Giroux streaked up the right wing and tried to feed rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere on a two-on-one. The pass was broken up by Winnipeg forward Mark Scheifele, but Gostisbehere stuck with it and was able to make an acrobatic play to corral the puck before feeding Giroux, who was alone in front.
“I tried to shoot it and it just trickled in,” Giroux said. “I was too tired to celebrate and just threw my hands up in the air.”
“I’m just glad it worked out,” Gostisbehere said. “It was a lucky play, just desperation. G (Giroux) had to finish it too and he did a heck of a job.”
Pavelec got a piece of the Giroux wrister, but not enough.
The transition play started when Winnipeg twice missed chances in its offensive end. But in three-on-three, when you miss the net, it creates havoc on your own end.
“I would have like just to find the net on the two chance we had,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “That’s the difference. It’s got to get between the pipes on those two chances.”
The Flyers (37-25-13) remained tied with Detroit for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Flyers had a 2-0 lead early in the second period that was erased early in the third period, when Blake Wheeler’s backhand beat Flyers goalie Steve Mason to even the score at two apiece.
Philadelphia took the game’s first seven shots on net and had a few scoring chances in the first period — none better than Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s shot that was snared by Pavelec’s glove — but the period went scoreless.
The Flyers picked up where they left off after the intermission, controlling the play early in the second period. Defenseman Mark Streit snuck down from the blue line into the slot and was fed a pass from center Sean Couturier. Streit one-timed the puck past Pavelec for a 1-0 lead 41 seconds into the second period.
A little over four minutes later, with the Flyers still buzzing around the Winnipeg net, a broken play sent the puck out to the blue line after winger Brayden Schenn failed to finish an opportunity in front of Pavelec. Wayne Simmonds was waiting and fired a wrist shot that deflected off Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien on its way to the net and past Pavelec.
“That’s the furthest goal I’ll ever get,” Simmonds joked.
Winnipeg (31-38-7) got on the board at 6:28 of the middle period.
Scheifele intercepted a Jakub Voracek pass in his defensive zone, skated freely in on Mason and beat the goalie to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Maurice was highly-complimentary of Scheifele’s line, along with Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers. The trio combined for 15 of Winnipeg’s 28 shots.
“That was a pretty impressive performance,” Maurice said. “They were dynamic. Since Nik’s come back from his injury, they’ve been dangerous almost every shift. That’s the feeling anyway now when they touch the puck. We got better as the game went on and competed really hard. That line it’s the first time I’ve been excited in a while.”
The Flyers improved to 25-1-2 when leading after two periods. They can thank their captain – and perhaps the concussion protocol – for that.
“He told us the whole time he was good,” Gostisbehere said. “You gotta trust him and it worked out tonight.”
NOTES: Flyers G Steve Mason made his sixth consecutive start – stopping 26 shots on the night – tying his longest stretch of the season. With Michal Neuvirth out, Mason, who has a 5-0-1 record against the Jets, likely will carry the load the rest of the way. … Winnipeg D Dustin Byfuglien was the team’s nominee for the year’s Masterson Trophy. Chosen by each professional hockey writers association’s chapter, the Masterson is awarded every season to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. D Shayne Gostisbehere was nominated to be the Flyers’ representative. … Jets C Mark Scheifele tallied an assist in Saturday’s loss to Buffalo, giving him a career-high 50 points on the season. … The Flyers started a three-game homestand that continues Wednesday against the Washington Capitals. … The Jets play host to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.