Giroux emerges as Flyers eliminate Penguins, 5-1

The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- Claude Giroux showed why he's one of the NHL's fastest rising superstars.

Giroux had a goal and two assists, Ilya Bryzgalov made 30 saves and the Philadelphia Flyers eliminated the heavily favored Pittsburgh Penguins with a 5-1 victory in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series Sunday.

Scott Hartnell, Erik Gustafsson, Danny Briere and Brayden Schenn also scored for the Flyers, who advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals against a yet-to-be determined opponent.

Giroux finished third in the league in scoring with 93 points during the regular season. He took his game to an even higher level in a fight-filled, high-scoring series that featured 56 goals. Giroux had six goals and eight assists for 14 points, setting a franchise record for the most in a playoff series.

"Giroux is a very special player," Bryzgalov said. "He can hit. He can dish. He can score. Not many players like that in the world."

Giroux gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead 32 seconds into the game. First, Giroux leveled Crosby with a hard check before scoring off a giveaway on the same shift. He ripped a slap shot from just outside the left circle past Marc-Andre Fleury.

"Usually we don't get off to a good start," Giroux said. "I was just trying to spark the team up and I was able to get that hit on him and get the first goal."

According to teammate Max Talbot, Giroux predicted his start.

"Claude called it before the start of the game. He said, 'I'm gonna have a great first shift,' " Talbot said. "I didn't know what it meant. He was physical and scored the first goal. That's what leaders do and definitely Claude set the tone for us."

Evgeni Malkin had the lone goal for Pittsburgh, which forced the series to six games after losing the first three. Despite finishing one point behind the conference-leading New York Rangers in the regular season, Sidney Crosby and the Penguins lost in the opening round for the second consecutive season.

"We worked hard to get back in the series until today," Crosby said. "When you put yourself down 3-0, it's pretty tough. We felt like we can get it back to Pittsburgh. That first couple (losses) at home, that hurt us."

Hartnell's power-play goal later in the first put Philadelphia up 2-0. Fleury stopped Giroux's one-timer, but Hartnell poked in the rebound during a scramble in front of the net. It was Philadelphia's 12th power-play goal of the series, which set a team record for most in a series.

Gustafsson's first career playoff goal made it 3-0 early in the second. He skated into the Penguins' zone and fired a shot from just inside the blue line that sailed by Fleury.

Malkin cut the lead to 3-1 a few minutes later with an unassisted power-play goal. Fleury stoned Sean Couturier on a short-handed opportunity at the opposite end, setting up Pittsburgh's rush. Malkin avoided three defenders with a slap shot that beat Bryzgalov.

But the Flyers answered 34 seconds later. Briere's shot deflected off Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik and under Fleury to make it 4-1.

Schenn's empty-net goal was the lone tally in the third period.

"He was the best player on the ice, but I don't think we were surprised by that," Orpik said of Giroux. "Maybe two years ago, we'd be surprised."

Notes: The Flyers' previous record for points in a series was 12 by Briere in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals and by Bill Barber in the 1980 Conference semifinal vs. Minnesota. . . . The Flyers became the first team in the series Sunday to score first and win. . . . The Flyers improved to 10-0 when leading a series 3-0 and 18-0 when leading 2-0. . . . The Penguins were the 15th team in NHL history out of 170 to lose the first three games of a series and then extend the series as far as a sixth game. . . . Crosby had three goals and five assists in the series. He was held scoreless in the last two games.
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