Friday, March 15, 2013

Bryzgalov and Flyers respond with backs to the wall, edge Devils in SO

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 

Ilya Bryzgalov played like he believed his prophecy about the season being over if the Flyers lost both games of this back-to-back series with the Devils.

He made 27 saves in regulation, many of the superstar kind, then stopped 2-of-3 chances in the shootout, leading Philadelphia past New Jersey, 2-1, on Friday night.

Bryzgalov could team up with Rodney Dangerfield after this key victory, as those in charge of selecting the game's best players gave him no respect. He didn't even figure in the Three Stars selection.

Nonetheless, it didn't stop his trademark humor from surfacing. When asked if Paul Holmgren's speech, reportedly done behind closed doors on Thursday with hockey stick in hand, spurred he and his teammates to play better, he quipped: "It's not because somebody walk in and say to you, if you not start playing better, we're going to kill you."

Matt Read and Claude Giroux beat Johan Hedberg with the hosts' first two shootout chances, and though Ilya Kovalchuk buried his opportunity, Bryzgalov shut the door on David Clarkson and induced a miss from Patrik Elias to end the contest.

Max Talbot picked up the lone goal in regulation for the Orange and Black, who had lost four of their last five coming in.  The Flyers also happened to register their first-ever shootout victory against their tormentors from up the Turnpike, having lost their first seven attempts since 2005.

Clarkson tallied and Hedberg stopped 21 shots in defeat, as the visitors couldn't drive the dagger home despite winning by a 5-2 count in Newark in the opener on Wednesday.

After posting three out of a possible four points in this double dip, Devils head coach Peter DeBoer seemed satisfied: "It was, I thought, a really gritty effort on the road in a tough building against a desperate team. I really liked our game. We did everything but win it."

After passing the first test of the contest by killing off 92 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play thanks to consecutive minors to Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek at the 10:34 mark of the first period -- during which Bryzgalov came up huge with four saves and his defenders blocked three more shots -- the Flyers emerged with a 1-0 lead.

Read skated over the blue line from the right wing before feeding ahead to Simon Gagne on the left side. He drew two defenders down as he cut to the net while also luring Hedberg out of position and slid the puck under Andy Greene's stick to Talbot, waiting at a sharp angle on the right side for an easy score with 4:39 left in the first.

"We had a 3-on-2 and [Read] made a great play to [Gagne]," Talbot said. "[Gagne] took the goalie with him and gave the puck to me back door and I shot it and put it in."

The Devils knotted the game after surviving their own shorthanded situation, as Bryce Salvador's floater from the left point was deftly deflected in front by Clarkson and the puck hit the back of the net just inside the near post with 6:09 gone in the second.

For Clarkson, who started the season hot and led the club in goals, it was his first in 14 games, dating back to a February 15 tally at home against Philadelphia.

A power play for the hosts in the first 15 seconds of the third period thanks to a high-sticking call to Marek Zidlicky turned into a penalty-killing clinic by New Jersey, and an interference call to Anton Volchenkov with 6:48 remaining failed to prod the Orange and Black into deciding this one in regulation.

Scott Hartnell also took a stupid slashing penalty with 8:51 on the clock, but his teammates bailed him out despite several close calls. 

The Flyers then dodged a bigger, faster bullet late in the contest, as Brayden Schenn left his feet to go up high on Devils defenseman Peter Harrold in his own zone with 1:42 remaining.

"I was just kind of in a vulnerable position. I didn't think it was that bad. It didn't tickle but I've been hit like that before," said Harrold, a BC product. 

Luke Schenn nearly was the cause of the winning goal with 14 seconds left when a point drive caromed off his body, but the puck rolled just to the outside of the right post before Kovalchuk realized where it landed.

Bryzgalov loomed large again, making a huge save on Steve Bernier in front with under three minutes left in overtime, then with 1:46 to play, made two quick pad saves on Elias off a right-circle draw and one while lying on his back in the crease against Zidlicky.

"'Zid' was trying to play a little golf there," said Elias. "Trying to chip it right into his bellybutton."

Thanks to a snaking rush by Giroux and Voracek, Hartnell then had a chance from the left circle muted by a diving Hedberg with seconds to go.

Notes:  Danny Briere, who registered the only Flyers miss in the shootout, hasn't scored in 12 games, since tallying twice at Uniondale in a 7-0 win against the Islanders on February 18...The Flyers improved to 1-3-0 this season against the Devils, with one more meeting scheduled for April 18 in Philadelphia...The Orange and Black head to Tampa for a Monday showdown before six straight days off...Philly's next home game won't be until March 26 when the New York Rangers come to South Broad Street...Kovalchuk, who led the Devils in scoring against the Flyers with six points (2G, 4A) in the first three matchups, was held off the scoresheet...Clarkson was the Third Star, Talbot picked up Second Star and Giroux earned First Star...Devils center Andrei Loktionov was a no-show after the second period with an undisclosed injury, which was classified only as a "tweak."

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