Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Panthers turn back the clock, beat Flyers 2-1

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

Someone somewhere must have decided that Tuesday night's game at Wells Fargo Center would comprise of a bad episode of VH1's "I Love the 90s."

Most of the hallmarks of the fabled dead-puck era were present: territorial domination, a lopsided shot total, a dogpile of wasted opportunities, one goaltender made to look better than the other because of the lack of quality chances, and, inevitably, a head-scratching loss.

Ultimately, it was a timeless bugaboo which struck the Philadelphia Flyers, as Sean Bergenheim's goal off a bad bounce early in the second period proved to be the difference as Florida claimed a 2-1 victory.

"We played the way we wanted. We jumped on them early. We just couldn't score," lamented Jaromir Jagr.

The turning point in a largely somnolent contest came at the 6:23 mark of the middle stanza, when Brian Campbell's hard wraparound at the left post wound its way beyond the goal line, only to take a right turn back into play.

That's where an alert Bergenheim collected the puck and beat Ilya Bryzgalov to the short side high to give the Panthers a two-goal edge.

No matter that Eric Wellwood was the recipient of a gift tally 91 seconds later; a 36-13 shot advantage wasn't enough to overcome that bit of rotten luck.

Stephen Weiss notched the other goal for Kevin Dineen's squad, which has won five games in a row and opened up a five-point lead over idle Washington in the Southeast Division.

Scott Clemmensen, a surprise starter over Jose Theodore, acquitted himself well thanks to 35 stops.

"It's never easy coming off a long lay off there but it was a matter of getting a couple of saves under my belt and after that you kind of go from there," said Clemmensen of his first start since March 3. It's just a matter of trying to get in that comfort zone."

Bryzgalov, the First Star in the league two weeks running, ended up with only 11 saves as Philly couldn't maintain momentum from Sunday's OT win over Pittsburgh. The Penguins rolled over the Jets, 8-4, and separated themselves by four points over the Orange and Black in the race for the fourth spot in the East and home-ice in the first round.

Despite spikes in tempo and a pace which didn't reach a crescendo until late in the first, the hosts began rolling up the shot disparity early on. Still, the power play failed to click on four chances, including a 42-second 5-on-3 with under four minutes to go.

Weiss picked up the lone goal of the opening period, with 6:56 remaining, when he was able to elude capture along the right wing, moved in between the circles and beat Bryzgalov high to the far post.

Then, with the Flyers trailing by two, the shot which got them (and the restless yet less-than-capacity crowd) rolling came from the energetic 22-year-old.

He held the puck behind the goal line to the left of Clemmensen, then attempted to center for Danny Briere only to find the dish caromed off the skate of Ed Jovanovski and in.

“We started out the game with plenty of jump. I thought we came out a little bit sleepy in the second period for a few minutes,” Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said. “They caught a really nice break off the carom off the glass. After that, I think we got back to work.”

The remaining 32:06 of regulation was an exercise in frustration as countless close calls that gave way to missed open shots eventually led to crashing the net that was a step behind the opposing goaltender.

It was a grim repeat of Flyers-Panthers games of a generation ago, which usually saw the latter come up with one more successful finish than the former who was kept to low percentage shots.

Notes: Clemmensen improved to 4-1-1 against Philadelphia in his career...The loss deprived the Flyers of their chance to sweep the Panthers for the first time since going 4-0-0 in the 2005-06 season...Bergenheim scored just his third goal in his last 11 games...The win snapped Florida's five game losing streak in the Quaker City...The 11 saves tied a season-low for Bryzgalov in a full contest, after he recorded the same amount in a 5-1 loss at Tampa Bay on December 27...Campbell led all players in ice time at 25:16 and assisted on both scores...Pavel Kubina returned to the lineup for the first time since March 6, while Max Talbot and Andreas Lilja both came back after one-game absences...To make room on the roster, Philly sent defensemen Eric Gustafsson and Brandon Marshall to Adirondack of the AHL.

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