Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bryzgalov sets scoreless string, Flyers hold on against Isles

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

Perhaps it was fitting that the moment passed away from home ice, far from the distractions of the invading hordes of local media, looking to steal a piece of his soul for the boost in mouse clicks and circulation.

So when it passed, there was no stoppage, no serious acknowledgement from the crowd, no ovations that needed to be cut short. Just the feeling of a job well done and more hockey to be played.

And so it was for Ilya Bryzgalov, who set a new franchise record for longest scoreless string and ended up making 29 stops, but the Philadelphia Flyers had to hold on late to record a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

Bryzgalov's run reached an incredible 249 minutes, 43 seconds -- eclipsing John Vanbiesbrouck's previous best of 227:40 from October 17-26, 1999 -- until Michael Grabner's goal with 6 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

In typical fashion, the 31-year-old let it be known the praise should be spread around: "(The) record is not for me. It's a team accomplishment. Congratulations to all the players who played."

John Tavares tallied 35 seconds after Grabner, but the Islanders couldn't get any closer, dropping their fifth straight and eighth in 10. Evgeni Nabokov allowed three goals on 22 shots in defeat.

Zac Rinaldo, Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell lit the lamp early on for the Flyers, who have won seven of their last eight and kept up the chase for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Orange and Black remained two points back of Pittsburgh, which celebrated the return of Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang by winning its 10th straight, 5-2, at Madison Square Garden.

Grabner's left-wing blast early in the third caused Bryzgalov to calmly flash his glove to make the stop, but the Austrian winger redirected a Dylan Reese drive home from the left side to get the hosts on the scoreboard.

Tavares then trimmed the margin to 3-2 with a shot from the slot off a Mark Streit dish and suddenly the visitors had to scramble to keep composure. It was still not enough to rattle the first-year Philly netminder, who had another quick rejoinder to another obvious question.

"Do you think they were never going to score a goal against me again? You're mistaken."

Nabokov was pulled for an extra skater with 1:21 remaining, but didn't have a quality scoring chance thereafter.

"We gave them two gifts," said Islanders head coach Jack Capuano. "I thought we could have gotten some momentum back late in the second period with back-to-back power plays, but we failed to execute."

Another rare quirk regarding special teams also occurred in Uniondale, as the Flyers did not enjoy a single power-play chance for the second time in a week. The last time even a single such game appeared on the ledger was four years ago. Still, the club which has drawn the most advantages in the NHL didn't need it tonight.

Rinaldo managed to sneak one by Nabokov from the left wing near the boards and goal line at 8:41 of the first period.

It was 2-0 for the visitors at 13:26 when Jaromir Jagr fought off a checker behind the net and fed into the right circle for Giroux's successful wrister.

Bryzgalov stared down Grabner from in front less than a minute into the second for his toughest save of the contest to that point.

Hartnell made it a three-goal bulge at 7:02 of the second period, breaking free down the right wing and ripping a wrister over Nabokov's glove on the short side.

Bryzgalov officially made Flyers history at the 11:28 mark of the second, and the only acknowledgement came from the local broadcast crew during the next stoppage in play.

"He comes to work every day, always very focused," Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's really the one who kept us in games early in the season. Now you're seeing what Bryz can do when we play well in front of him. Quietly, he has shut the door."

Notes: Bryzgalov also bested his personal streak of 249:15, first set with Anaheim during the 2006 playoffs...Nikolai Khabibulin is the only other Russian-born goalie to toss three straight shutouts, with Phoenix in 1997...Rinaldo's only other NHL score came back on November 3 at home against New Jersey...Giroux set a new career high for goals in one season with his 26th...Kimmo Timonen recorded his 200th point as a Flyer with the primary assist on Hartnell's goal...Philadelphia won four of six in the season series, including all three on Long Island...With his late goal, Tavares became the first Islander to score at least 70 points in one season since Alexei Yashin (75) in 2001-02.
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