Tuesday, January 31, 2012

All-Star broke: Jets slip by Flyers in shootout

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

The Philadelphia Flyers are a proud organization with a long history of tough play at all areas of the rink. But the mysteries of the shootout are apparently on par with the Riddle of the Sphinx.

In the club's first game back from the All-Star break, it was the Winnipeg Jets who managed to escape with another one-goal victory, but this time it was a 2-1 decision in the shootout on Tuesday night.

After five previous shooters came up empty, Bryan Little managed to end the game with the final shot of the third round, slipping a shot between the legs of Ilya Bryzgalov.

“I just decided to give him a little fake and see if it might open up again, so it worked," said Little. "I think you have an advantage when you go third because you get to watch the replay of what the goalie does each time the guy shoots, so I definitely made my decision based on that."

When they find themselves in times of trouble, it falls upon the chief to try and provide some answers, but none were forthcoming as Philly fell to 1-4 this year in the breakaway competition.

"We score a lot of goals every year. We're one of the highest-scoring teams and I'm not sure I have an answer for it," said Philly head coach Peter Laviolette. "I think we have enough talent."

Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr -- all capable hands around the net -- all failed to dent Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped 27-of-28 shots in regulation.

"He's generated offense his whole life and I wanted to change it up, try a few different players," Laviolette said about his decision to place the 39-year-old last in the sequence.

Chris Thorburn was the only Winnipeg player to score in the first 65 minutes, but there was enough in the tank to give the franchise its sixth straight win here since January of 2009.

Bryzgalov acquitted himself well and came up one stop short, eventually a game where he halted 23-of-24 shots will go on his ledger despite the loss.

The frantic action and non-stop offense which defined the first two games in this four-contest season series was nowhere to be found early on. No shots on goal were recorded for either team through game's first 10-plus minutes.

A break for the hosts came with 6:28 left in the opening period. Scott Hartnell, fresh off his goal-scoring tear two weekends ago and an All-Star berth of two assists, goaded Thorburn into a retaliation penalty after mercilessly working him over in the right corner.

It led to the game's first score.

Matt Carle swung in from his position at the left point and ripped a shot on goal from near the boards. It hit the left post then the back of Pavelec. All he had to do was lay prone in the crease to stop the puck, but Brayden Schenn keeps digging at the left side of the crease until the puck trickled in with 4:49 to go before intermission.

But Thorburn got his revenge just 2:06 into the middle period, with a sizzling wrister that caught net just inside the crossbar at the near post from the right circle. The tally tied the score and also snapped a 59-game goal drought.

Hartnell could have sent the faithful home happy, but Pavelec slid across to stop his dead-on chance from a Giroux dish with 8:38 remaining in regulation.

The Flyers also survived an ill-advised and ill-timed bench minor taken with 4:18 to play, and received a huge dose of good luck as the clock ticked under one minute to go, as Jets captain Andrew Ladd fell down while staring at a wide open net and his shot caromed off the outside of the cage.

Breath was held once again because of Ladd less than a minute into overtime, but his blast careened off the post and kicked back out into play. Andrej Meszaros also provided a reason to hold it in during the waning seconds, but his open chance from between the circles sailed way high and wide.

Notes: Thorburn's last goal came on March 19 at Buffalo in an 8-2 loss...The last time the Flyers participated in three consecutive shootouts occurred from March 17-24 when they played in four straight shootout-decided games...Jagr picked up an assist in his first action since re-aggravating a groin injury on January 21 at New Jersey...Giroux saw his goal-less streak extended to 12 games...Atlanta/Winnipeg has gone 9-1-0 against Philadelphia since November of 2009, after the franchise snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Orange and Black...Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk took a seat for the Flyers, while Dustin Byfuglien and Evander Kane were out of action for the Jets.

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