Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Bryzgalov rescues sluggish Flyers in victory over Red Wings

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

It started out like Ilya Bryzgalov was going to have one of those games where all he needed to do was kick it into gear at key times, flash the pads, sweep the glove, and turn in another victory.

But the hobbled Detroit Red Wings unleashed 39 shots on net -- 37 in the final two periods -- and forced Bryzgalov to stand strong in a 3-2 Flyers victory on Tuesday.

Once the fanfare of retiring former defenseman Mark Howe's #2 was silenced, a hockey game that Philadelphia controlled early on nearly slipped from their grasp.

Max Talbot picked up the eventual deciding tally, a short-handed marker with 5:50 remaining in the second period which gave the hosts a 3-1 advantage. Claude Giroux added a goal and assist, while Jakub Voracek also scored before leaving the game just over seven minutes into the second period after absorbing a devastating shoulder-to-head hit from Wings defenseman Nicklas Kronwall.

"It felt good to string a couple wins together in a row and move back into position by playing well at home. Everybody knows the playoffs are coming," said Talbot.

Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen provided the offense and Joey MacDonald wound up with 20 saves in defeat.

Detroit's losing streak here reached seven regular-season games, dating back to January 25, 1997, but this one was aided by the absences of marquee names such as Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi, Nicklas Lidstrom and usual starter Jimmy Howard.

Giroux provided the excitement in a one-goal hockey game by picking an Ian White pass at the point, racing by the defender and cruising in on MacDonald. Though White's stick check slowed the initial shot enough, the rebound kicked right out to Talbot for the easy slam-dunk from the left side to give the Flyers that crucial two-goal margin.

From that juncture, the ice was tilted heavily in Detroit's favor, and wave after wave of shifts and shots came in on Bryzgalov.

Even though Franzen ripped a shot home from between the circles at the 8:47 mark of the third to make it 3-2, Bryzgalov saved his best for last.

The Wings went for the extra attacker with just over a minute to play, and the visitors worked the puck into the right offensive corner. The scrum reached the edge of the crease before the puck squirted loose to Franzen, whose dead-on chance was calmly trapped by Bryzgalov between his arm and body as 56.8 seconds showed.

It looked like an auspicious night for Philly as it enjoyed a power play after just 23 seconds. Though it fell by the wayside, good fortune seemed to desert the Orange and Black at the four-minute mark.

That's when Zetterberg took a Valteri Filppula drop pass in stride on the right wing and slid a rising backhander inside the near post.

Still, the hosts buckled down and allowed only one more shot for the remainder of the period, while lighting the lamp twice.

On the tying goal, MacDonald left the puck behind his cage for Doug Janik, who hesitated and blew his assignment by not making a clearing attempt. Voracek swooped in and while trying to wrap the puck to Talbot at the opposite post, the disc caromed off the skate of Brendan Smith and in with 6:10 remaining.

Giroux then found another gear to meet a Braydon Coburn pass which ricocheted off the right-wing boards. He was two steps ahead of the defense by the time he gathered the puck, made a slight fake to pull MacDonald out of position, and lift his backhander under the crossbar at 18:11.

"He's our leader and he's a little banged up right now," Talbot said of Giroux. "He plays with energy and competes night in and night out. He shows that he wants to go out on the ice no matter what's going on."

Danny Briere continued to be snakebitten despite being fed by his linemates in the early going. A chance from inside the crease somehow stayed out and avoided deflecting off a Detroit player, instead ringing off the post early in the second.

Minutes later, Kronwall did his damage. Taking advantage of Voracek looking down and to the side while trying to corral a loose puck along the left-wing boards, the gritty defenseman caught the former Blue Jacket unaware with a solid shoulder to the mush.

Despite the cries of the sellout crowd, the deed went unpunished.

“It was a tough hit, he took it right in the head,” Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s frustrating. He’s having a terrific year and is a terrific player for us. It’s substantial when you’re battling through a lot of injuries and you take a hit like that.”

Notes: The three stars of the game in ascending order were Giroux, Bryzgalov and Howe...The Flyers have won three straight games for the first time since taking seven in a row from December 2-15...Bryzgalov ran his record to 6-2-1 with a 2.15 goals-against average and one shutout over his last 10 starts...Jaromir Jagr departed the game late in the second period and did not return due to a groin injury. He will be re-evaluated on Wednesday...Largely subbing for Giroux because of a wrist injury, Scott Hartnell ended up winning 7-of-16 faceoffs...The game was delayed nearly 30 minutes due to Howe's number being retired, standing as the fifth player honored in Flyers history and first since Bill Barber in October of 1990.

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