PHILADELPHIA — Claude Giroux was glad to return to the lineup after sitting out three games because of an injury. A win and his 500th career point made the Flyers captain feel even better.
Giroux scored one of Philadelphia’s three first-period goals and Mark Streit had three assists to lead the Flyers to a 4-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.
“To be back on the ice and battle with your teammates (and) to get a win, there’s nothing better than that,” Giroux said. “It’s a good honour to be able to get that many points. It’s obviously fun, but the win feels a lot better.”
Scott Laughton, Sam Gagner and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare also scored for the Flyers, who have won both games so far of a six-game homestand that likely will determine their playoff fate. Philadelphia began the day behind three teams and three points back of a playoff spot.
“We got a good win today; it’s in the books,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We have a lot of work in front of us.”
Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Brad Richardson scored for the Coyotes, who tied a season high with their fifth straight loss. Arizona also has dropped seven in a row on the road and 11 of the last 14 overall.
“Instead of finding ways to win hockey games, we’re finding ways to lose right now,” Ekman-Larsson said.
The teams combined for four goals in the opening period.
Laughton got Philadelphia started midway through the period. Nick Cousins chipped the puck from the defensive zone high over two Arizona defenders into the waiting hands of a wide-open Laughton at the Coyotes blue line. Laughton dropped the puck and then finished the breakaway, beating Louis Domingue through the five-hole with a backhander.
While the pass and catch looked more like something you’d see on a football or baseball field, neither Laughton nor Cousins said they had any background in either sport. Cousins said his instincts took over.
“I heard (Laughton) call for it and figured I might as well try it,” Cousins said. “If he gets it, he’s got a breakaway. Nice move by him and it got us on the board. Every assist counts the same, but I guess that one was kind of cool. I just reacted on my instincts and was like, ‘I guess this is the only play I had.’ It worked out.”
Richardson tied it with 6:29 remaining on a one-timer from close range after a cross-ice feed from Max Domi.
Giroux, who was back in the lineup after sitting due to an upper body injury, notched his 17th of the season to reach his point milestone with 2:19 left on a wrist shot from the left circle that went over Domingue’s right shoulder. The power-play goal made it 10 straight home games in which Philadelphia has scored on the man-advantage.
“He stepped back in and did his job, did a good job,” Hakstol said of Giroux.
And Gagner, who spent last season with the Coyotes, hit a slap shot over Domingue’s left shoulder from close range just 40 seconds later to make it 3-1.
Streit reached 400 career points with assists on all three first-period goals.
Ekman-Larsson netted his 19th goal of the season while upping his team-best points total to 48 when he took a backhanded feed from Mikkel Boedker and fired high over a sprawling Michal Neuvirth with 13:27 remaining.
The Coyotes’ best chance to tie the game came with 8 1-2 minutes left when Martin Hanzal’s redirection attempt from the slot went off the post.
Bellemare put the game away when he finished a 3-on-2 break by poking home a rebound with 2:45 to play.
Domingue made 29 saves while starting his 10th straight game. The rookie is 3-7 over that stretch.
Neuvirth, generally the Flyers’ backup goalie, started his third straight game in place of a healthy Steve Mason. He improved to 15-7-4 while making 29 saves, though none were as spectacular as the save he made in the waning seconds of Thursday’s 3-2 win over the Wild.
Brayden Schenn had a pair of assists for Philadelphia.
NOTES: Flyers RW Jakub Voracek sat out with a lower body injury, ending his streak of consecutive games at 286. The streak was tied for third-longest in club history. Voracek sat in the press box and had a walking boot on his left foot. … Kevin Connauton bettered Laughton in a second-period fight. … The teams will meet for the second and final time this regular season on March 26 in Arizona. …. Arizona wraps up a five-game road trip on Monday night at Pittsburgh. … Philadelphia next hosts Calgary on Monday night.