Giroux makes statement for Flyers

Penguins forward Sidney Crosby shakes hands with Flyers forward Claude Giroux after the Flyers...

Penguins forward Sidney Crosby shakes hands with Flyers forward Claude Giroux after the Flyers defeated the Penguins their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Penn., April 22, 2012. (TIM SHAFFER/Reuters)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:01 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA - Claude Giroux told them what was on the way.

In the seconds before the puck was dropped to start Game 6 of this opening-round series, the Philadelphia Flyers star skated by teammates Daniel Briere and Max Talbot and spat out a few words.

"Before they even dropped the puck, he came over and he told me, 'Watch the first shift,'" said Briere with a chuckle. "When he did, I didn't know what to say to him. He's been our leader all year and once again he took another step in that direction today. It was simply amazing, plain and simple. He was possessed."

"He called it before the game. He said, 'I'm going to have a great first shift.' I didn't know what it meant," said Talbot. "He's got a thing in his eyes: 'You can't stop me.'"

On the first shift of the game, after no more than half a dozen seconds had passed, Giroux collided shoulder-to-shoulder with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby in front of the Penguins bench, sending Crosby crashing to the ice.

At the 32-second mark, Giroux hurtled in on the left wing and ripped a wrist shot off the right post behind Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to put the Flyers in front.

It was what the Flyers needed, a bold first step in front of their orange-clad fans, most wearing the Flyers-issued gear with a picture of Flyers coach Peter Laviolette and the phrase "time for some jam."

Giroux brought the jam.

He brought the bread, too, and the table...

He brought it all Sunday.

He went to Laviolette and told him he wanted to start the game, wanted to set the tone.

"He wanted to get out on the ice. He wanted to make a statement," said Laviolette. "For him to come up and say that, I think that speaks volumes for him, not only as a player, but who he is as a person."

"It wasn't planned to hit Crosby," said Giroux. "Just sometimes when you have a chance to hit another player, you've got to go out there and do it."

In addition to his goal, Giroux had two assists in the Flyers' 5-1 win which eliminated the Penguins.

In a series against Evgeni Malkin, the Art Ross Trophy winner and potential Hart Trophy winner, and Crosby, on most nights the best player in the game, Giroux outshone them.

He wound up with 14 points, just one shy of the Flyers' franchise record for most points in a series. Tim Kerr had 15 for the Flyers in a 1989 Patrick Division semifinal. Giroux did it in five games after being held without a point in Game 1 of the series.

Giroux' first shift was the kind of confident statement the Flyers needed after allowing the Penguins to get back in the series with a couple of wins. Fleury was brilliant in Game 5 and it looked like the Penguins had wrapped their arms around momentum in the series.

Giroux got it back.

"To me, he's the best player in the league and he's our motor ... our engine," said Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen. "When he goes, we go."

The team that scored first had lost the previous five games, but the Flyers and Giroux changed that Sunday.

"Obviously, it ended up being a crusher," said Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis.

"He played well and he wanted to show on that first shift he was ready to go," said Crosby. "At the end of the day, that's hockey. You've got to make plays. You get hit sometimes. I don't know if that altered the game. They got a great start which is what they wanted. He got everyone into it. He had a great series all the way around, right through, and he got it started for them today."

When it comes to the best player in the game, Giroux was in the conversation all season.

"Anything you do, you want to be the best at it," said Giroux. "If that's to score goals, do hits or block shots. Whatever it is, I am going to try and do it."

Now, in the playoffs, on what amounts to the game's biggest stage, Giroux ended the debate.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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