PHILADELPHIA – Ilya Bryzgalov was so bad in goal his last few outings, he claimed he was, “lost in the woods.”
Look who took a trail back to the win column.
“I found the way pretty quick, huh?” Bryzgalov said, laughing. “I found a compass.”
Bryzgalov rebounded strong in net from a string of ineffective games, Jaromir Jagr scored two goals and Claude Giroux had a four-point game to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.
Bryzgalov needed an outing like this to restore the confidence he said was shot after an 0-4-1 stretch with a 4.62 goals against average. He allowed four goals on 10 shots in relief in Philadelphia’s 9-8 loss to Winnipeg on Thursday.
Bryzgalov blamed himself for the defeat, calling it the low point of his career.
He was just fine against the Hurricanes. The lone goal he allowed wasn’t even his fault. Scott Hartnell slid headfirst into Bryzgalov in a rush for the puck, knocking the goalie off his feet and on his back, allowing Jussi Jokinen an open look for the tying goal in the second period.
Bryzgalov was perfect from there and stopped 24 shots.
“Sometimes, you just need to turn the switch on in your head and everything’s changed,” Bryzgalov. “You have to fix your head, turn the switch on and go on.”
Jagr covered for the lone mistake with a wrist shot 39 seconds into the third period to beat former Flyers goalie Brian Boucher for the go-ahead goal. Max Talbot backhanded in a rebound for a short-handed goal and Giroux attacked the net on a breakaway to score goals 1:50 apart.
Jagr made it 5-1 late in the third for his 115th career two-goal game.
“It was big for Bryz, he needed that game after the last game and he was solid today,” Jagr said. “He was perfect.”
Hartnell also scored and had three points for the Flyers.
“They have enough offence that if you make those mistakes in the third, they are going to bring it,” Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said.
Boucher got the start a night after Cam Ward made 30 saves in a 3-0 shutout over Chicago.
Boucher had an up-and-down career in two stints with the Flyers spread out over a decade. He led them to the Eastern Conference finals in 2000, then made a triumphant return to the organization in 2009 and helped lead them to the Stanley Cup finals. Boucher started as the playoff goalie until an injury forced him out, but he returned for the finals.
Boucher was part of a trio of starting goalies used in last season’s playoff debacle—an embarrassment chairman Ed Snider vowed would not happen again.
That propelled the Flyers to acquire Bryzgalov, a two-time All-Star, and sign him to a nine-year contract.
Bryzgalov was great early—he has one shutout—before falling into a giant funk.
Playing again without injured defenceman Chris Pronger, the Flyers tightened their defence and allowed only eight shots on goal in the second period.
Bryzgalov needed the breather.
The Flyers offence came alive in the third to help them improve to 3-3-1 at home, a lacklustre record for one of the NHL’s top home teams.
The Flyers also played without Danny Briere, who entered as their second-leading goal scorer, with an upper-body injury. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Briere is day to day.
Hartnell took a drop pass from Giroux early to score his fourth goal of the season for a 1-0 lead in the first.
Giroux sent up Jagr’s first goal with a perfect cross-ice pass just as he was pinned against the boards. Jagr beat Boucher stick side with a wrist shot and celebrated the goal with a salute.
From there, the Flyers piled on the goals for the blowout win.
“I was excited to play,” Boucher said. “It goes without saying you want to beat your old team.”
Bryzgalov took the string of defeats harder than about any otherFlyer. His usual upbeat personality and funny quips with the media vanished after each loss. Flyers goalie coach Jeff Reese suggested Bryzgalov was feeling pressure to live up to the US$51-million, nine-year contract he signed after a trade with Phoenix.
Whatever the reason, Bryzgalov returned to form for a Flyers team that needs more outings like this one if they want go deep in the playoffs.
NOTES: Flyers coach Peter Laviolette led the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup championship in 2006. … Pronger has blurred vision in his right eye and does not know when he’ll return to the ice after being jabbed near the right eye. Pronger feels lucky the injury was not worse because serious eye injuries have ended careers in the NHL. … The Hurricanes play their next three games at home.