New Castle News


December 9, 2011

With Crosby out, Flyers’ goalie give Pens headaches

PHILADELPHIA — It's only a third of the way through the season, but when the Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins play a game with first place in the soon-to-be-defunct Atlantic Division on the line, it's certainly going to have heightened emotion — with or without Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby — or Flyers captain Chris Pronger.

Crosby missed the game as a precaution against a possible recurrence of his concussion problems. Pronger was out recovering from knee surgery and a mystery virus/illness/whatever word the Flyers can come up with that doesn't spell concussion.

And yet, minus that star power, there was still a heck of a hockey game.

The Flyers caught the Penguins napping early, jumping out to a three-goal lead, but the Penguins clawed back, leading to some hairy moments in the third period.

However, the Flyers, who came back from identical deficits twice in the past ten days, weren't about to let the same thing happen to them.

Actually, Ilya Bryzgalov wasn't about to let it happen.

The much-maligned goalie of late was very sharp Thursday, making several big stops - especially in the third period - as the Flyers held on for a 3-2 win at Wells Fargo Center.

"I thought he was really steady," coach Peter Laviolette said. "Especially at the end. He shined the last 10 or 12 minutes of the game. When they started pressing and the puck was coming at our net quite a bit, he did a good job of making the saves we needed him to make to make sure we walked out of here with the two points."

The Flyers built their lead on a crazy, pinball goal by Danny Briere, a power play marker from Wayne Simmonds and a greasy goal from Scott Hartnell from the crease to build the lead.

However, Pittsburgh clawed back and nearly tied the score.

Following goals from James Neal and Evgeni Malkin, all the momentum had swung in Pittsburgh's direction.

The Penguins looked like a team who were waiting in Philadelphia for the Flyers to return home. The Flyers looked like a team who played overtime the night previous in Buffalo.

But Bryzgalov stood tall in net, making 25 saves, and kept many of quality Penguins scoring chances from reaching danger.

"That's my job," Bryzgalov said. "I don't need to tell myself anything. I just want to help the team win. I just want to stop the puck and hopefully that will keep going to the end (of the season)."

It was Bryzgalov's best performance this season as a Flyer.

Whether he was making a sliding pad stop on Craig Adams, or stoning Chris Kunitz in front with his glove, or stopping James Neal's snipe with his mask — a la Roman Cechmanek — Bryzgalov was a difference-maker.

Even down to the final seconds when he had to make a stick save on a streaking Malkin, Bryzgalov stood strong.

"Bryz made some big saves for us," Hartnell said. "He's our No. 1 goalie, he's tough to score on in practice. I know he had a little confidence issue there, he was 'lost in the woods' for a while, but he's been great for us. We have all the confidence in the world in him."

And so does coach Peter Laviolette, who admitted after the game that he might have started Sergei Bobrovsky had the opponent been different.

"Maybe had it been a different opponent maybe I would have considered something different, but we want to get him going and get him playing - get him some games," Laviolette said. "It was a big game. It was for first in the conference and we wanted to make sure that our guys were ready and our goaltender was ready and we put the lineup on the ice that we wanted to. And we wanted to go after a win and make sure we got it. So you know Bobrovsky will get games coming up here, but this was a big game tonight."

The win vaulted the Flyers (17-7-3, 37 points) one point ahead of the Penguins in the standings as well as past the Boston Bruins, who lost to Florida Thursday, for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

"We want to finish as high as possible," Hartnell said. "We got a good streak of wins going here right now and we just want to keep that going. Coming into the dressing room every day is fun, the guys are loose, we're working hard at practice and all that's going into the games."

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Beginning tonight, the Pittsburgh Penguins will take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the NHL playoffs. So, who ya got? And in how many games?

Penguins, in five games or fewer. Too much firepower for the Blue Jackets, especially if Evgeni Malkin is ready to go.
Penguins, in six or seven games. It’s a pretty even matchup on defense, but Pittsburgh will grind it out.
Blue Jackets, in five games or fewer. Sergei Bobrovsky in goal for the Blue Jackets spells trouble for the Pens.
Blue Jackets, in six or seven games. Bobrovsky gives Columbus the edge, but it won’t be easy.
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