Claude Giroux capped the best season of his career in spectacular fashion.
Giroux earned his first career hat trick in the regular season and the Philadelphia Flyers clinched a playoff berth in their final regular-season game with a 5-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday.
Giroux finished with 34 goals and 102 points. He extended his career highs in points and goals while becoming the sixth player in franchise history to reach 100 points in a season.
“He was dialed in,” coach Dave Hakstol said.
Giroux said a key to his performance in such a crucial game was keeping his emotions in check.
“When you wake up, you try to be not jacked up,” he said. “You learn while you go through seasons. You don’t want to try to do too much.”
Michael Raffl and Ivan Provorov also scored for the Flyers, who needed at least one point to make the playoffs and eliminate the Florida Panthers from postseason contention.
“We had a lot of good performances tonight and that’s what it takes,” Hakstol said.
The Flyers (42-26-14) are returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2016, and will be vying for their third Stanley Cup. The club won back-to-back titles in 1973-74 and 1974-75.
“We have to turn the page and get excited again,” Giroux said.
The Flyers’ captain scored his first two goals during Philadelphia’s dominating second period in which it outscored the Rangers 3-0 thanks in part to an 18-5 shots advantage.
Giroux put the Flyers ahead 2-0 with 7:36 left in the second when his shot from the left circle got through Henrik Lundqvist’s legs after a screen by Nolan Patrick.
Raffl made it a three-goal lead when he took the rebound of Radko Gudas’ shot from the point with a turnaround shot that got past Lundqvist’s right pad with 2:07 left in the period.
And Philadelphia set a club record for the quickest two goals when Giroux fired past Lundqvist’s glove side with a wrist shot from the slot just 6 seconds after Raffl’s tally to make it 4-0. Raffl set up the play by intercepting a Rangers pass at the blue line and dropping a pass to Giroux.
The fans unleashed a thunderous “M-V-P!” ”M-V-P!” chant for Giroux when he was shown on the video board after his second tally.
And Giroux had the sold-out crowd of 20,028 in a frenzy when he scored his third on a breakaway with 9:49 left in the third period. Hundreds of hats littered the ice, causing a seven-minute delay, and Giroux smiled on the video board and waved to the crowd, which gave him a standing ovation.
“(Giroux) has worked hard,” Hakstol said. “He earned that and he’s very deserving of that moment.”
The Rangers (34-39-9), who are out of the postseason for the first time since 2009-10, ended their regular season with their ninth loss in the last 11.
Lundqvist said New York needs to hit the reset button this offseason.
“It’s about winning games and getting back to the playoffs,” he said. “We need to set that goal right away. If you’re here, you’re here to make a difference. I think we can turn this around real quick.”
Brian Elliott made 17 saves in his second game in goal after returning in Thursday’s 4-3 win over Carolina following a 25-game absence because of core muscle surgery on Feb. 13.
Elliott was shaky in the win over the Hurricanes, allowing a pair of soft goals while making 19 saves. He didn’t have much action against the Rangers.
Provorov got the Flyers on the board 6? minutes into the game when he scored on a 6-on-5 advantage as a result of a delayed penalty. Sean Couturier sent the puck toward the crease from the left of the goal, and the puck caromed off Provorov’s right shoulder and past Lundqvist. The goal stood after an officials’ review.
NOTES: D Brady Skjei is the only Rangers player to appear in every game this season. Four Flyers: Couturier, Provorov, Giroux and Jakub Voracek, accomplished the feat for Philadelphia. … Eric Lindros was the previous Flyers player to reach 100 points, with 115 in the 1995-96 season. Giroux’s other hat trick came in Game 2 of the first round of the 2012 playoffs against the Penguins. … LW Matt Beleskey, acquired in the trade that sent Rick Nash to the Bruins on Feb. 25, made his Rangers debut and C Steven Fogarty made his NHL debut for New York.
Rangers: End of regular season
Flyers: First-round playoff series.
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