PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Philadelphia's Claude Giroux is proving he is one of the elite players in the league.
Giroux had two goals Friday, backup Sergei Bobrovsky made 23 saves and the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1.
``This year he's really spread his wings,' Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. ``He's consistently one of the top forwards in the game.'
Giroux has 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) on the season. He entered the game second in the league behind Toronto's Phil Kessel. He is nearly halfway to his career best of 76 points, set two seasons ago.
``He's a tremendous player,' Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. ``He keeps getting better year after year. Now he's a leader on their team.'
On both of his goals, a wide-open Giroux was in the right place. The puck bounced off the back boards to him on the first goal and off a rebound on the second.
``I think it's all luck,' Giroux said. ``You just get that kind of game where every puck gets on your stick and you shoot it and it goes in. Obviously, I'd like more of those kinds of goals.'
Laviolette said it was no accident that Giroux was positioned to score.
``One of his great attributes is his competitiveness,' he said. ``Every inch of the ice, he fights for.'
Jakub Voracek also scored for the Flyers, who got all of their offense in the second period. Bobrovsky improved to 5-1-1.
Petteri Nokelainen scored and Carey Price made 33 saves for Montreal.
Bobrovsky made his sixth start and eighth appearance in 22 games. He replaced Ilya Bryzgalov in Philadelphia's overtime win against the Islanders on Wednesday.
Bobrovsky's best stop Friday came with six minutes remaining when he stoned Erik Cole from point-blank range with a left leg save.
``Without Bob we're not even close in that game,' Giroux said. ``Bob made some key saves for us.'
Bryzgalov, who signed a $51 million, nine-year deal in the offseason, has been pedestrian to this point. He is 8-5-2 with a 2.89 goals-against average. Earlier in the season, he complained about a complete lack of confidence.
Laviolette wouldn't commit to a goalie for Saturday's game against the Rangers, but praised Bobrovsky.
``He was sharp, handled the puck well and gave us an opportunity to win,' Laviolette said.
Bobrovsky, the Flyers' top goalie as a rookie last season, said playing behind Bryzgalov has been an adjustment.
``It is not easy keeping confident if you don't play every game in a row,' he said through an interpreter. ``I try to adjust as much as I can and it is not my choice how many games to play. It is part of hockey.'
The Flyers outshot Montreal 18-5 during their big second period. All three of Philadelphia's goals came in the final 6 minutes, 48 seconds.
Giroux controlled a deflection off the back boards and deposited it off Price's back. Voracek put Philadelphia ahead 4 1/2 minutes later, beating Price to the stick side with a one-timer after receiving a pretty pass from Kimmo Timonen from behind the net.
Giroux gave the Flyers a two-goal advantage, scoring with 5.9 seconds left in the period. Voracek did a good job of digging the puck out of the corner and passing back to the blue line, where Braydon Coburn took a hard shot that deflected off Price to the right circle. Giroux was waiting there and wristed the puck past the diving Price, who couldn't get back to the far side of the goal in time.
``He was in the right place at the right time and you have to be sharper on a player like that,' Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges said of Giroux.
Said Price: ``(Giroux)'s awesome. You can't give him time right there. It doesn't take much time for him to put the puck in the net.'
Montreal opened the scoring with 1:46 remaining in the first period. Nokelainen picked up a loose puck just outside of the slot and fired a wrister past Bobrovsky.
Philadelphia outshot Montreal 36-24.
Philadelphia defenseman Andreas Lilja sustained a high ankle sprain and will miss six weeks, according to Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren.
NOTES: Montreal killed all four of Philadelphia's power plays and has allowed just two goals in their opponents' last 52 attempts. ... Philadelphia LW James van Riemsdyk did not play and will be out one to two weeks with an upper body injury. ... Flyers RW Jaromir Jagr missed his third game in the last four with a lower body injury. Jagr, whose streak of 264 straight games ended Nov. 19, played Wednesday but was held out of the lineup against Montreal. ... Flyers captain Chris Pronger missed his third straight game with a virus. ... Voracek has 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in his last eight games. ... Philadelphia announced its roster for the NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game against the Rangers on Dec. 31 at Citizens Bank Park. Among the Flyers alumni playing will be Bob Clarke, Eric Lindros and John LeClair.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved