Claude Giroux celebrates his game-tying goal in the Flyers 5-4 win over the Blue Jackets on Thursday. (Photo Courtesy of Philly.com)
It took Claude Giroux until Nov. 9 to score his first goal. When he finally did against the Edmonton Oilers as part of a 4-2 win for the Philadelphia Flyers, he had a total of eight points.
In the games leading up to that first goal, Giroux admitted confidence was waning.
It wasn't difficult for many Flyers to feel that way. A 1-7-0 start diminshed the Flyers hopes to recover from the struggles of a shortened season.
That lockout-shortened season happened the be Giroux's first as Flyers captain. Giroux never seemed to become the player that dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the 2011-12 playoffs.
That player, the defining leader, showed up in a big way for the third period against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.
Giroux finished the game with four points in a five-goal third period for the Flyers. He assisted on the two of the Flyers first three goals, then proceded to score the game-tying and game-winning goals. The game-winner was the 100th goal of his NHL career. But Giroux's real contribution was just being on the ice.
"I think G put all 20 of us on his back and led us to a big victory," Scott Hartnell said. "Getting above that .500 mark, it didn't look like it was going to be tonight."
Giroux's big period was not without the help of his linemates Michael Raffl and former Blue Jacket Jake Voracek. Voracek scored the Flyers first goal and assisted on both of Giroux's goals. Raffl picked up an assist on the game-tying goal, but his hard work helped set up scoring opportunities all game.
"He’s really skating and working and going the right way -- north," head coach Craig Berube said. "His whole line is all working together well. Jake is skating well. He’s attacking with speed. Raff is a real good compliment right now."
Giroux's turnaround since that Nov. 9 has been impressive. In 19 games since scoring his first goal of the season, Giroux has eight goals and 14 assists, leading the team with 30 points. He is also currently on a five-game points streak.
While his teammates had plenty to say about his highlight-reel, game-winning goal, Giroux focused on the team's return to .500 and move to third place in the Metropolitan Division. His recent run of success is one of the reasons the Flyers find themselves in playoff position as the halfway point of the season approaches.
"In the last two years, first time we’re over .500 or something like that," Giroux said. "For us to get that step in earlier, to be over .500 and in the playoff race, it’s a little motivation for the guys. Hopefully, we can build on it."
Giroux's demeanor throughout the game was exactly the same as always. His emotion is high, especially in the most critical situations. Much like he did when he opened the deciding Game 6 of that series against the Penguins, Giroux scored an important goal, critical for his team, and delivered the fist pump that defines the emotion he brings to the game.
That is a sign of Giroux's confidence, a leader delivering on all fronts and inspiring his team to do the same. It's the reason the Flyers have made the climb back from the dismal start this season to find themselves back in the playoff picture.