New York Rangers

Claude Giroux, Flyers shut out Rangers to clinch playoff berth

Claude Giroux, Flyers shut out Rangers to clinch playoff berth

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Just like 2010, the Flyers needed Game 82 against the Rangers to advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Flyers shut out the Rangers, 5-0, Saturday to finish with 98 points, becoming the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff team.

Captain Claude Giroux put an exclamation point on his MVP season with his first career regular season hat trick in his 738th game.

Ivan Provorov opened the scoring with his 17th goal of the season 6:34 into the first period and the Flyers never looked back. Michael Raffl and Giroux scored six seconds apart to put the game out of reach at 4-0.

The two goals in six seconds established a franchise record for fastest two goals, eclipsing the mark of seven seconds last achieved on April 23, 2013, against the Bruins.

Earlier in the second period, Giroux added his 32nd goal as he reached the 100-point plateau for the first time in his NHL career, and the first Flyer since Eric Lindros in 1995-96 (see story).

Brian Elliott stopped all 17 shots for his 37th career shutout and the first in a Flyers uniform.

• The Flyers needed to get greasy in their game with the Hurricanes, and you had to think that would be the case against Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers. On a delayed penalty and a 6-on-5, the Flyers jumped on the board first with an ugly goal. Provorov had the presence to jump in from the blue line, and as Sean Couturier looked to center a pass over a sprawling Lundqvist, the puck bounced off the goalie, off Provorov and into the net. Provorov usually never makes a bad read, and on the 1-0 goal, there was a high reward/ low-risk element to it.

• Recently, most notably the Islanders game, the second period had become the Flyers' Achilles heel. The Flyers railroaded the Rangers with three goals while outshooting them, 18-5. New York didn’t seem to be in attack mode with a “dump the puck, send one attacker in” mentality. The Flyers overcame some solid play from Lundqvist early on, who was making some big saves to keep the Rangers close.

• After Giroux scored on the Flyers' power play in the second, the Wells Fargo Center, in unison, began chanting “MVP, MVP!” Giroux joined Nikita Kucherov and Connor McDavid as the only players to reach the 100-point mark this season. With Giroux reaching the century mark and the Flyers reaching the postseason, Giroux seems to be a near-lock to become one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy as the league’s Most Valuable Player. In fact, the chants rained down after each of Giroux’s goal.

• Elliott looked much more comfortable and at ease in his second start back from core muscle surgery. Elliott came up with some key first period saves to keep the Rangers off the board. His movements were fluid and smooth, and he didn’t remotely display any rust that was evident in the game against the Hurricanes. However, Elliott was barely challenged during that lopsided second period.

• Jake Voracek, Travis Konecny and now Michael Raffl. Playing with Giroux and Couturier has been a performance boost regardless who’s played on that No. 1 line. The trio of Giroux-Couturier-Raffl finished with four goals and three assists, combined, with a whopping plus-12 rating. Raffl was all over the place in the offensive zone with four shots and six attempted shots in the first two periods.

Claude Giroux joins Flyers legends with 100th point

Claude Giroux joins Flyers legends with 100th point

Claude Giroux has joined the century club.

And at age 30, no less.

In Game 82, the Flyers' captain punctuated his career season Saturday by scoring a second-period goal to give him 100 points for 2017-18. Less than six minutes later, he tacked on another and the party was on at the Wells Fargo Center.

Oh, and then he added one more for good measure.

A hat trick — the first of his career.

Fans chanted MVP and bellowed his name.

The admiration and appreciation is more than deserved.

Giroux's resurgence is hard to wrap your head around. Obviously he's healthy compared to last season, but still …

2016-17: 82 games, 14 goals, 44 assists, 58 points, minus-15

2017-18: 82 games, 34 goals, 68 assists, 102 points, plus-28

The 100-plus points puts Giroux in unique company. He's the first Flyer since Eric Lindros in 1995-96 to amass the triple-digit total and becomes only the sixth to do so, joining Lindros, Bill Barber, Bob Clarke, Rick MacLeish and Mark Recchi.

"It feels great," Giroux said at second intermission. "Fans really made me feel special and I'm pretty happy about that."

Here's a look at the sights and sounds:


(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

Appropriately, it all comes down to this for the Flyers

Appropriately, it all comes down to this for the Flyers

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While the playoff push boiled, the Flyers said it like it was their mission statement.

We control our destiny.

Here we are, Game 82 next on the docket, and the Flyers remarkably still do.

Ironically yet fittingly, though, their fate remains up in the air just as much as they control it heading into the final hurrah of the 2017-18 regular season.

Would the Flyers have it any other way?

"We knew it was going to come down to that," Jakub Voracek said.

It didn't have to, but the Flyers needed assistance Thursday and couldn't get the helping hand. They picked up a heart-racing, stomach-turning 4-3 win over the Hurricanes at the Wells Fargo Center in the season's penultimate game (see observations). That was step No. 1 to punching their playoff ticket Thursday. They also required a Panthers' loss to go with it and Florida didn't cooperate, beating the Bruins, 3-2.

As players one by one trickled into the dressing room, they didn't seem too concerned about scoreboard watching with the Panthers and Bruins still duking it out, tied at 2-2 in the third period. In fact, the Flyers were quite emotionless.

"I don't think anyone was really paying attention," Travis Konecny said. "I think we've got our own business to worry about."

This season, they haven't been fortunate enough to relax much anyway.

"We're not trying to get up, get down," Konecny said at the time. "We know that there's still another game being played right now."

For them now, too — one more coming up, gushing with importance.

The Flyers (41-26-14, 96 points), grasping to the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot, lead the Panthers (42-30-8, 92 points) by four points for that final berth. They're also just one point behind both the Devils and Blue Jackets, so plenty can change (see standings).

But as the playoff picture remains a bit cloudy, what's crystal clear is the Flyers' simplest way into the bracket.

Just win.

That will be the team's obvious goal Saturday afternoon when it hosts the Rangers, the Metropolitan Division's last-place club, which has gone 9-18-4 since Feb. 1.

"I mean, before the season starts, if you tell us we've got one game to win to make the playoffs, I think anybody would take it," Sean Couturier said. "So it's kind of a huge challenge, big game coming up, exciting and we'll be ready."

If the Flyers happen to lose in regulation, then the whole control-our-destiny message goes out the window and into the Panthers' lap. Florida has two games left — Saturday night vs. the Sabres and Sunday night at the Bruins. Those two will mean everything or nothing depending on the Flyers' final result beforehand.

"The game is in our hands on Saturday," Voracek said.

Right where they want to be.

"We control our own destiny," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "We don't have to worry about anyone else."

The Flyers almost had to worry until they pulled out a roller-coaster victory in the final six minutes of regulation Thursday against a non-playoff team.

"Tonight was right down to the wire," Dave Hakstol said.

So is the regular season — and why not?