DALLAS - Some fans were calling Claude Giroux's quick return from a concussion a "Christmas miracle," and that was before the Flyers' shifty center collected a goal and three assists against the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night.
Giroux's theatrical return spurred the Flyers to an entertaining, 4-1 win over the Stars at the American Airlines Center, a victory that included some extracurricular activity between fiery coach Peter Laviolette and Dallas center Steve Ott.
"It was like old times," right winger Jaromir Jagr said, referring to having Giroux as his linemate. "We had extra energy. He was excited [to] play again."
Giroux said he was headache-free when he woke up in the morning and knew he was 100 percent after skating in the morning. He absorbed big hits from Trevor Daley and Ott early in the game.
"I think it was important to get the first hit and see how you feel," he said. "I felt good after that, and it made me more comfortable."
Just 81/2 minutes into the game, Giroux scored after Jagr's shot deflected to him out front.
"I was able to get a little gift on the side there," Giroux said.
More "gifts" followed.
"He's clearly established himself as the top player in the league," said Laviolette, adding he wasn't surprised by Giroux's performance.
Giroux had two points in the first 11 minutes, 36 seconds and took over the NHL points lead. He later added an assist on Jagr's second-period, power-play goal and on Andrej Meszaros' third-period breakaway.
"It feels good to be back with the boys in the locker room," said Giroux, whose four-point night matched Sidney Crosby's first game back from a concussion before he again was sidelined. "That's the best part."
Giroux had missed four games after being accidentally kneed in the back of his head by teammate Wayne Simmonds on Dec. 10 against Tampa Bay.
While Giroux's return was the big story, there was an interesting side show. After the first period ended, Laviolette and Ott seemed to exchange words as they were walking down the tunnel. On the TV replay, Laviolette and Ott appeared to push each other.
Apparently, Laviolette was upset by a hit Ott made on Giroux in the opening period.
"I didn't know about it," said Giroux, who was informed of the incident by a reporter. "It's good to see we have each other's back."
Laviolette tried to downplay the incident after the game.
"I think it's hockey out on the ice," he said. "We just had a big win to move back into first place in the Eastern Conference. We should probably keep it about the game because it was such a big win."
In the second period, Ott and Flyers assistant Craig Berube were jawing at each other.
The Flyers ended a two-game losing streak. They have not lost three straight this season.
After a shaky start, backup goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (30 saves) steadied himself and raised his record to 7-2-1.
Before the game, Laviolette answered questions from reporters who wondered if Giroux had returned too soon. Basically, he told them: Let's trust the medical experts.
"There are intelligent people making intelligent decisions that spend a lot more time studying this," Laviolette said.
With Giroux on the ice for his first shift, Dallas scored 56 seconds into the game as Michael Ryder blistered a drive from the top of the left circle that blew past Bobrovsky's glove and into the far corner.
But before long, Giroux was in pre-concussion form, scoring a goal and assisting on Wayne Simmonds' power-play tally as the Flyers built a 2-1 lead.
Giroux partially fanned on a rebound, but got enough of the puck to knock it past Richard Bachman, tying the score at 1 after 8:30. About three minutes later, Simmonds deflected Kimmo Timonen's drive into the net for his 10th goal, making it 2-1.
The Flyers' power play was 1 for 17 (5.9 percent) in the four games Giroux missed. They had two power-play goals in their first three attempts with Giroux back in the lineup.
Eight minutes into the second period, Giroux set up another power-play goal, making a perfect give-and-go feed to Jagr, who broke in alone to give the Flyers a 3-1 cushion. Jagr's goal was his 657th, surpassing Brendan Shanahan for sole possession of 11th place on the all-time NHL list.
Dallas' Steve Ott calls Peter Laviolette "arrogant."