Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has saved his best play this season for the New Jersey Devils. On October 8th of this season, he earned his only shutout of the season to date. Today, against the same Devils, he stopped 30 of 31 shots he faced and beat the Devils again. The Devils outshot, out-hit, had more puck possession, but it didn’t translate into a victory today. Martin Brodeur, who had a brutal third period against the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, made a pair of incredible saves today, but not even that was enough to keep his team in the game. Perhaps the biggest Achilles’ heel for the Devils today was special teams. The penalty kill failed twice in five chances today and the power play came up empty in six chances, although two of them were abbreviated.
The game started out very slow and deliberate from both sides. For the first ten-plus minutes, both teams seemed to sit back and wait for a push by the other team. Late in the first period, the Flyers broke out with a 3-on-1 odd-man rush short-handed, but Martin Brodeur made a tremendous sliding save to rob Brayden Coburn of the game’s first goal. The Devils threatened late in the period, but Ilya Bryzgalov made the saves when needed. The Devils, and the fans, also disagreed with a few non-calls and penalty calls by the officials at the end of the period. The highlight of the period, perhaps, was Eric Boulton dominating Philadelphia’s Jody Shelley in a spirited fight.
The Devils warmed to the task in the second period. They came up empty on a pair of early power plays in the period as well. Then, mid-way through the period, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette used his timeout in an attempt to spark his team. The results paid off immediately. The Flyers temporarily took over the game. Just before the halfway point of the game, Wayne Simmonds, from behind the net, found Matt Read in front of the net, and Read one-timed the puck past Brodeur and gave Philly the lead. Three and a half minutes later, Scott Hartnell deflected Kimmo Timonen’s wrister on the power play and the Flyers doubled their lead. However, just seconds later, it was the newest Devil, Alexei Ponikarovsky, who re-directed a Matt Taormina shot that pulled the Devils to within 2-1. After that, however, the Devils took a series of penalties that killed their momentum.
They failed on yet another brief power play at the start of the third period, but continued to take shots on Bryzgalov. They didn’t really generate many high-quality scoring chances for much of the second half of the game. With the Devils struggling offensively, Hartnell picked up another power play goal eight minutes into the final period to make it 3-1. While the Devils continued to press, they simply couldn’t beat Bryzgalov. He wasn’t tested much late in the game, despite the Devils pulling Brodeur will nearly three minutes remaining in the game. With 2:22 to go, Wayne Simmonds capped the Flyers’ win off with an empty net goal as he was surrounded by a pair of Devils defensemen. The Devils dropped their second in a row, both by identical 4-1 scores at the hands of some of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
Brodeur wasn’t tested nearly as much as Bryzgalov was in this game, but the Flyers found ways to generate chances when they needed to. As previously mentioned, Brodeur made a strong save on Coburn’s shot shorthanded in the first period and also made an incredible save sprawling around in the crease as Simmonds though the had an empty netter. Those saves weren’t enough, though, as the Devils just couldn’t get to any rebounds. The Flyers played a pretty tight game all day today, as the Bruins did once they took their lead on Thursday. The Devils simply had no answer for them, and Bryzgalov did play well enough when he needed to be. It’s a frustrating loss for the Devils, who need to take care of Buffalo on Tuesday to avoid a three-game losing streak heading into the All-Star Break.
Game notes: The Flyers played most of the game without Jaromir Jagr, who left the game after the first period with a “lower body injury.” Danny Briere also left the game early and has since been diagnosed with a concussion. Yep, that epidemic continues in the NHL. The Devils shuffled their lines a bit late in the second period, as David Clarkson was given a 10-minute misconduct. Ponikarovsky’s goal is the only Devils shot to beat Bryzgalov this season. He’s stopped 50 of 51 Devils shots in two games this season. While Ponikarovsky only registered the one shot on goal, he had some of the Devils’ best chances today. He, like the whole Devils team, played a very physical game today. With Henrik Tallinder out for a while, Matt Taormina saw his ice time exceed 20 minutes tonight, after averaging 17 and a half minutes per game before today. Ilya Kovalchuk led all Devils with four shots on net today. The Devils, as a team, have only scored on two of their 62 shots combined from the Bruins loss and today’s loss.
So what did you think of today’s game? Take a minute to share your thoughts in the comments section below.