Alex Lyon, Claude Giroux help Flyers whip Penguins, 7-2, and aid Caps in East Division race

©The Philadelphia Inquirer

While the Flyers are playing out the string on a forgettable season, their opponent Monday, the Pittsburgh Penguins, are in a hotly contested battle to win the East Division title.

So the Flyers were playing loose when they faced a Penguins team that should have had urgency on its side in their meeting at the Wells Fargo Center.

Loose won.

Flyers 7, Penguins 2.

Claude Giroux had two goals, including an empty-netter, and an assist as the Flyers ended a three-game losing streak, all against the Devils, and improved their record to 5-2 against their archrivals this season.

They also hurt the Penguins’ chances in the tight battle for first place in the East Division. Pittsburgh and Washington, which beat the Rangers on Monday, are tied for the most points (71) in the East, but the Capitals have a game in hand.

“We did the right things tonight,” said rookie right winger Wade Allison after scoring his second NHL goal. “We were getting pucks deep and playing the way we should.”

The Flyers (23-22-7 have four games left, including Tuesday’s rematch with the visiting Penguins (34-16-3).

Alex Lyon (1-3) made 35 saves and notched his first NHL win in a little over 15 months, a 6-3 victory over Colorado. Sidney Crosby ended his bid for his first career shutout Monday with a power-play goal on a slick deflection with 17:30 left in regulation.

The Penguins got to within 4-2 on Jason Zucker’s power-play goal, on another deflection, with 11:36 remaining, but Joel Farabee (team-leading 17th goal) restored the three-goal lead on a power move in front 8:23 to go

For the first time in the last 11 games, the Flyers scored first — and they did it in a bizarre manner. The refs ruled Pittsburgh goalie Casey DeSmith made a sprawling glove save on Kevin Hayes from the side of the net. After a stoppage of play, however, the play was reviewed and the replay showed DeSmith’s glove was well past the goal line.

“When you’re playing with a lead, it’s a lot different than when you’re chasing the game, especially for how many times we’ve been chasing the game the last 10 games,” Shayne Gostisbehere said. “You could see in our play, the boys have some hop. and Alex is doing a great job battling hard for us all year and we wanted to get him a win.”

That goal ended Hayes’ 16-game drought and gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead with 14:02 left in the opening period. The Flyers had not held an in-game lead in about 332 minutes.

Gostisbehere increased the lead to 2-0 with 5:52 to go in the first, scoring a power-play goal on a point drive as James van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier screened DeSmith. It gave Gostisbehere nine goals in just 39 games, and the Flyers will have a difficult choice whether to protect him or Phil Myers if they use the three-defensemen option in the expansion draft with Seattle. (Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim are locks to be protected.)

It was Gostisbehere’s 60th career goal, fourth in franchise history among defensemen. He passed Behn Wilson. Tom Bladon (67) is next on the list.

Just 64 seconds later, Giroux made it 3-0 as he converted Couturier’s pass and scored from the slot.

Down the other end, Lyon was superb in the opening period. Midway through the period, he lost his stick while making save on Kasperi Kapanen, but the puck went in the air and fell behind him and tricked toward the goal line. Lyon spun around, lunged at the puck as it was about to cross the goal line, and while flat on the ice, swatted it away from the net with his right glove.

With 12:10 remaining in the second, the lead grew to 4-0 as the Flyers took advantage of a bad Penguins line change. Allison, after taking a drop pass from Scott Laughton, scored from the high slot. A long pass from Gostisbehere to Laughton put the play in motion.

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup after missing 23 games because of a lower-body injury. Pittsburgh, showing off its depth, went 16-5-2 while Malkin was sidelined.