PHILADELPHIA – Ilya Bryzgalov made saves in all types of situations—and positions.
Flat on his back, Bryzgalov held off one New Jersey push. Upright on skates, Brzy pushed aside a short-handed surge.
No matter how he stopped the puck, Bryzgalov and the Flyers showed they do indeed have some fight left in their playoff push.
Matt Read and Claude Giroux both scored goals in the shootout to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.
The slumping Flyers badly need this win following a 5-2 loss to the Devils on Wednesday. The Flyers are still on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“We needed to win a hockey game tonight,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “It was something that had to be done. We have to give ourselves a fighting chance.”
Read beat Johan Hedberg on the first shot and New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk matched him. Giroux scored the second shootout goal, and David Clarkson and Patrik Elias both failed in their attempts against Bryzgalov.
Max Talbot scored in regulation for the Flyers and Clarkson had a goal for the Devils.
Bryzgalov stopped all 10 shots in the first period and a whopping six in the 5-minute overtime.
“We had a couple good chances,” Kovalchuk said. “But The Bryz was playing real well tonight.”
The Flyers’ penalty kill, which staved off a 5-on-3 in the first period, was clutch in the closing minutes of regulation. Brayden Schenn was whistled for charging with 1:42 left, but the Devils couldn’t convert. They attacked Bryzgalov and one puck got loose and trickled just outside the post, that had Flyers fans gasping as the final seconds ticked off.
With every man advantage or easy looks, the Devils just couldn’t convert.
With Bryzgalov flattened in the crease, Marek Zidlicky failed to flip the puck into the open the net. Zidlicky just didn’t enough lift on his shot and pushed the puck smack into a sprawled out goalie.
“I think I need a bigger curve, probably,” Zidlicky said.
No doubt, the Flyers had to have this one.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren ripped the team in a 15-minute meeting at practice Thursday. He then gave Laviolette a vote of confidence and said he hadn’t considered firing him. Holmgren demanded the Flyers play hard and with purpose for all 60 minutes.
With every point so crucial, the Flyers got the message.
“I think we played much harder than we did the last game,” forward Danny Briere said. “We won a lot more battles.”
Holmgren’s gamble to dismantle the Flyers after a run to the 2010 Stanley Cup finals has yet to produce a roster capable of a deep post-season run. Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, James van Riemsdyk were all traded and Bryzgalov has been maddeningly inconsistent in his two seasons in net.
The Flyers entered the night five points behind Winnipeg for the final playoff spot in the East.
Unlike Briere, Bryzgalov said there were more reasons than Holmgren’s speech for the inspired play.
“We all are realizing how important every game is for us, every point,” Bryzgalov said. “It’s not because someone walked in said, ‘If you don’t start playing better we’re going to kill you.'”
Playing with the spirit they needed more of in this underachieving season, the Flyers played one of their better first periods of late.
With Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek in the penalty box for hooking and Wayne Simmonds serving time for roughing, the Devils had the early two-man advantage.
Bryzgalov came up with a pair of clutch stops, first on a pad save against Kovalchuk and then holding off Clarkson on the rebound. Bryzgalov heard a well-earned rousing ovation for keeping the Devils off the scoreboard.
“We had some chances, but you have to give Bryzgalov some credit,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “He made some really big saves and they were playing for their life out there.”
The Flyers backed up Bryzgalov when Talbot punched the puck in a wide-open net with Hedberg drawn out to the tip of the crease for a 1-0 lead. Simon Gagne was open on the wide side and made a perfect pass to Talbot on the low circle.
That left the Devils down a goal—and a player—and the end of one. The Devils lost centre Andrei Loktionov for the game with an undisclosed injury after only 4:04 of ice time.
New Jersey tied it 1-all when Bryce Salvador’s shot from the point was redirected by Clarkson for his 11th goal. Kovalchuk rang one off the post toward the end of the period. Salvador headed for the bench in the first after he was smacked blocking a shot.
The Flyers did enough to beat their division rivals. They’ll need more of the same to make the playoffs.
“Sadly, we’ve put ourselves in a rough spot,” Briere said. “There’s no other way around it. We’re not going to be allowed to drop too many games from here going out.”
NOTES: The Devils fell to 3-1 vs. the Flyers this season. … The Flyers don’t have another home game until March 26. … The Flyers blocked 16 shots. … Hedberg said he’d be ready to handle back-to-backs and play against Montreal on Saturday night.