Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette commented that it took more than 59-minutes to decide a winner, as the streaking Flyers won their third in a row in a game that saw netminder Ilya Bryzgalov face his old team for the first time since coming to Philadelphia. The narrow 2-1 win saw several players show up in critical situations, but none more than rookie Matt Read, who scored the game-winner with 18.6 seconds remaining.
The first period was a slow grind, as the Flyers couldn’t get their engines going, and entered the first intermission, outshot 16-12 by the visiting Coyotes, but after the final buzzer, they’d outshot their opponents 42-31 in a game that saw both goaltenders tested often.
The biggest save of the night, however came just after power-forward James van Riemsdyk had given the Flyers a 1-0 lead by streaking through the neutral zone with the puck and firing it short-side high to beat netminder Mike Smith for the opening goal, more than half-way through the game. Less than a minute later, Coyote forward Ray Whitney had a breakaway against Bryzgalov, and tried going high glove-side on the 31-year-old goalkeeper, but was denied by a spectacular save.
Many will remember that last season’s Flyers were plagued by goals given up just after scoring. Bryzgalov was able to preserve the lead, and give his team a chance to win.
After the game, Bryzgalov was asked about comments made by his former teammates, who seemed to chide his play, as well as his character. The veteran goaltender took the high road on the issue, stating he didn’t put much into such things, and that he wouldn’t think about it.
Flyers’ captain Chris Pronger agreed, saying the best defense against such talk was something of a wry smile. Getting the win, and stopping 30-of-31 shots isn’t a bad way either.
Over the beginning of the season, there’ve been whispers of 25-year-old rookie Read, being a possible candidate for the Calder Trophy, as rookie of the year, and his play under pressure in all situations has set him up to receive a good look for the hardware.
The former Bemidji State forward scored the game-winner against the Coyotes with only 18.6 seconds remaining, and has been trusted with precious minutes by Laviolette, in all situations. In 15 games, he has 6 goals, 5 assists and 11 points, good enough to place him fourth among all rookies in points, third in goals, and tied for second in game winning goals with 2.
The youngster, who seems driven to succeed, has been defying all odds, in making the team and setting himself apart for his aptitude for executing under pressure. He now has a three game goal-scoring streak that includes a penalty shot goal against the Florida Panthers’ Jose Theodore.
One down-side on the night came when 39-year-old superstar Jaromir Jagr couldn’t be found on the bench early in the first period. It was later confirmed that he’d left for what the Flyers were calling a lower-body injury after seeing only 1:22 of ice-time. A source saw him get sandwiched on his second shift of the night, and wince in pain, before heading down the tunnel to the locker room.
After the game, Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren confirmed the injury, but wouldn’t go into much detail, as is often the case with Holmgren. He did however reveal that the aging star would not be accompanying the team on its trip to Winnipeg, this Saturday.
The Flyers are back at in Saturday night to try and continue their streak against the Jets. This will be their second meeting, and the Flyers will look to improve on their last, which they lost 9-8, in a goal scorer’s bonanza, that saw starter Sergei Bobrovsky pulled after allowing the first three goals.
Since that game, the Flyers haven’t lost in regulation, going 6-0-2.