Giroux shines in return as Flyers beat Rangers; Kreider nets hat trick in loss

We have not seen much of the Philadelphia Flyers this month, and when we have they have been without some of their most important players due to COVID protocols. They started to get some help back in the lineup on Wednesday night with the return of Claude Giroux, and he wasted no time in making a major impact against the New York Rangers.

Giroux had a monster game in the Flyers’ 4-3 win, finishing with three points, 12 shot attempts, eight shots on goal, a dominant night in the face-off circle (eight out of 11), a drawn penalty, and multiple scoring chances.

In short, he was everywhere and doing a little bit of everything.

Watching Giroux play on Wednesday you would have never known that he barely touched the ice over the past few weeks. His line dominated during 5-on-5 play, while he was at the center of several prime scoring chances, including the three goals he helped set up. Some strong goaltending from Igor Shesterkin is the only thing that kept him from scoring one of his own.

Erik Gustafsson, Shayne Gostisbehere, James van Riemsdyk and Kevin Hayes scored goals for the Flyers in the win. Brian Elliott stopped 24 out of 27 shots as he made the start in place of the struggling Carter Hart.

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This was a much-needed win for the Flyers as they had been slumping entering play on Wednesday, losing four of their previous five games including an ugly loss at Lake Tahoe over the weekend against the Boston Bruins.

The state of their lineup given the COVID protocols, as well as the fact they have played just three games over the past three weeks, has made it really difficult to get a read on where they are right now. In the two previous games before Wednesday they were without Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, and Justin Braun. That is a significant chunk of their lineup not playing and any team is going to struggle without six players of that caliber.

When healthy it has the potential to be a really good team. We just have not actually seen that particular lineup very much.

Giroux is the only one of their players that has returned at this point, but several others could be getting close.

As for the Rangers, they have some lineup issues of their own at the moment with Artemi Panarin taking a leave of absence, Kaapo Kakko and K’Andre Miller on the COVID list, and Jacob Trouba sidelined due to injury.

There was a lot of sloppiness on Wednesday (multiple delay of game and too many men on the ice penalties; turnovers; missed defensive assignemnts), and they were badly outplayed for much of the game during 5-on-5 play. The only two things that kept it close were Shesterkin’s play (and yes, he did play well even while giving up four goals) and a great individual effort from Chris Kreider as he recorded his third career hat trick. Two of those goals came on the power play, while he had several other prime chances.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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