PHILADELPHIA — As long as it took for the Philadelphia Flyers to nail down a playoff spot in the 2017-18 season, that wait pales in comparison the almost never-ending quest for a first career hat trick for captain and longtime Flyers sharpshooter Claude Giroux. It was only fitting that both of those achievements were pulled off in the same contest.
Giroux scored three goals in a game for the first time in his 10-year NHL career to lead the Flyers to a 5-0 whitewash of the New York Rangers in the regular season finale at Wells Fargo Center, with the win clinching a playoff spot for Philadelphia after a streaky, rollercoaster-type season.
The past two seasons for Giroux could be described as having its ups and downs like a rollercoaster, as he completed a startling turnaround from his disappointing 2016-17 campaign with a milestone against the Blue Shirts. After 738 career regular season games, Giroux finally got to taste the feeling of what it is like to have fans throw hats toward his way after an accomplishment of his on the ice.
Philadelphia had a 1-0 lead after one period when Giroux, while the Flyers were on the power play, scored from a sharp-angle shot from the left circle that beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to double the Flyers’ lead with 7:36 remaining in the second period. The goal marked the 100th point for Giroux on the season, this coming after only producing 58 points a season ago. Also, Giroux became the first Flyer since Eric Lindros in 1995-96 to have a 100-point season.
After Michael Raffl scored with 2:07 remaining in the second for a 3-0 Philadelphia lead, he ended up playing the role of provider for Giroux’s second goal just six seconds later. Raffl stole a pass in the Rangers zone soon after the face-off after Giroux’s first goal before dropping off a pass to Giroux, whose wrist shot beat the glove of Lundqvist and gave the Flyers a four-goal advantage. The six seconds between goals set a franchise record for shortest time in between two Flyers goals in a game.
Giroux capped off his special day with a breakaway goal in the third period, taking a long aerial pass from defenseman Travis Sanheim before scoring on Lundqvist at the 10:11 mark. Not only was the hat trick secure, but Giroux also ended the season with a strong push in hopes of winning the Hart Trophy as the National Hockey League’s most valuable player, as he racked up 19 points in the team’s last 10 games and scored at least one point in each of those games.
Goaltender Brian Elliott only had to make 17 saves to record the shutout for Philadelphia as the Flyers outshot New York 40-17 in the one-sided affair.
As the Rangers disappointing season comes to an end, the focus now will be on whether head coach Alain Vigneault will retain his job for next season.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline and story is the photo gallery from Saturday afternoon’s game, with all photos taken by our senior photographer, Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 10 pictures in total.