DALLAS - On Nov. 21, the hockey world was abuzz when Sidney Crosby lit up the New York Islanders for four points in his first game in more than 11 months.
Claude Giroux' stint on the injured list lasted just 11 days, but in his first game back in the lineup after sustaining a concussion, Giroux matched Crosby's storybook return with a fairy tale of his own.
Giroux factored into each one of the Flyers' tallies as they scored four unanswered goals to top the Stars, 4-1, and end a two-game losing streak. With one goal and three assists, Giroux regained the NHL's points lead after the fourth four-point game of his young career.
"I'm not surprised with anything this guy does anymore," linemate Scott Hartnell said. "He's obviously our best player and he's so competitive. He's always going to be in a position to get points and help our team win."
Giroux actually seemed disappointed after the game that he didn't net a fifth point to surpass Crosby. He now has a six-game point streak dating back to before his injury.
"Ahh," Giroux said when told that Crosby scored the same amount in his first game back from injury. "With all of those points, I just gave the puck to our guys and they took care of the rest."
Unlike Crosby, who again is out indefinitely due to a second concussion sustained after just eight games in the lineup, Giroux said he wanted to make sure that he was 100 percent before returning. He actually skated by himself yesterday morning just to make sure he was symptom-free.
He shook the cobwebs out early when he was slammed into the boards by both Trevor Daley and Steve Ott at separate points in the first period.
"When I woke up [yesterday morning], I felt great," Giroux explained. "I think that was important for me, to wake up and feel good. I was careful to see how the whole day went. I felt pretty good out there. I was kind of nervous to see how I was going to feel on the first shift, if the headaches were going to come back. It made me more comfortable.
"A little pressure comes off [with the first point scored] and you feel more comfortable."
With the win, the Flyers took over sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference just 2 days after losing their grip in the standings to Boston on Monday night. It was their 13th win in 18 road games.
The Flyers have earned 13 of a possible 14 points in their first seven road games in the month of December alone. They've outscored opponents, 28-17, during that stretch.
Even with three road tests left before the Winter Classic - in New York tomorrow night, followed by Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh - the Flyers can begin to see the light at the end of what was supposed to be a December gantlet.
That means there has been a lot of the Mac Miller "Knock Knock" song blaring in the Flyers' locker room recently.
"It's always a crappy time to be away from home, right near Christmas, with family and stuff," Hartnell said. "But we've been pretty hot on the road. It's fun and exciting, to come in here and listen to that [HBO-made-famous] music and everyone is happy. We know this will pay dividends in the months to come, it means we will be home a lot."
Last night, the Flyers' power play was the story. They entered the game having connected on just one of their last 17 attempts without Giroux over the last four games. They went 2-for-5 and Giroux picked up an assist on both goals.
On their two power-play goals, the Flyers needed a combined 1:06 to break down the Stars' penalty kill and score.
"They moved the puck, there was a lot of zone time," coach Peter Laviolette said. "When you take a player of [Giroux's] caliber and put him on the power play, it's going to be a lot more effective."
Not even a goal in the first 56 seconds of the game could derail Giroux' return. Michael Ryder scored for Dallas in the first minute with Giroux' line on the ice. From there on, Giroux said he felt a personal responsibility to turn his minus-1 into a plus-1.
"With 'G' back in the lineup, we can come back from three or four goals," Jaromir Jagr said. "We've proved it this month, that this team can score goals. You could feel it, no one worried about it and we just played our game."
"Giroux is a big catalyst for our club," Hartnell said. "He works hard. He plays all situations. His work ethic and his attitude is contagious. When he's going, everyone else just seems to follow suit."