Playoff hockey returned to Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.
Tense game. Terrific offensive skills. Great goaltending. One-on-one defensive battles.
Everything you expect in April was on display as the Flyers won their third straight, gutting out 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings while losing two more players in the process.
Best part of all?
Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was outstanding with 37 saves, including a game-saver in the final minute on Valtteri Filppula as the Red Wings attacked with six skaters.
He made some big saves, coach Peter Laviolette said. The third period he really got tested and came through.
This was the best of Bryz over these nine straight starts. Detroit made a furious push in the final period and he withstood it.
Did we mention he has a .948 save percentage and 1.67 goals-against average during the Flyers win streak, too?
Theres no doubt hes been the key, lately, Danny Briere said. You look at the last road trip. The game in San Jose. He was the only reason why we were in the game.
The game in Edmonton. We lose 2-0, played a great game but we just didnt give him any goal support.
You look at the work he has done lately, he has been great. If he keeps playing that way, were gonna be in good shape. Its great to see him play like that.
Laviolettes club hasnt won three in succession since it began the month of December by winning seven straight.
After getting outshot 9-2 in the first period, Detroit stormed back with 37 shots over the final 40 minutes.
Detroit is Detroit, Bryzgalov said. They never give up. They play a physical, tough game. They have lots of skill and you always have to be sharp when you play against Detroit.
The Flyers played the majority of the second half of the game without Jakub Voracek (stitches upperlower mouth; concussion evaluation) and Jaromir Jagr (hip injury).
For the third time in five games, Bryzgalov allowed a goal on the opponents first shot, then settled in with a strong effort.
He's been leading this team and playing well now for awhile and it's huge for us, Max Talbot said. You can look at the scoreboard tonight, he was steady.
That first goal at 4:00 from Henrik Zetterberg was classic -- great player making a shot only a guy of his skill could make.
Moving off the wing, cutting hard right-to-left into the slot, the Swede wristed an impossible shot under the crossbar. It was the Red Wings only lead, but the Flyers responded.
The last time these two clubs met in Detroit, goalie Joey MacDonald flubbed a handoff behind his own net and the Flyers scored.
A similar play happened at 13:50 when MacDonald got a dump-in, went behind his net to set it up for his defenseman but no one came to claim the puck. No one but Voracek that is, who grabbed it, went for the wraparound, shooting it off defenseman Brendan Smith to tie the game.
The goal was Voraceks 12th of the season.
Max Talbot dumped the puck and their goalie stopped it, Voracek said after the period. I think there might have been a miscommunication with the D. I just grabbed the puck and wrapped around and it went in.
Voracek would leave the game less than eight minutes into the second period when he was crushed with a shoulder-to-face check from Detroit blue liner Niklas Kronwall without a call.
The Flyer forward had just looked up, turned and skated right into Kronwall. The play will inevitably be reviewed for a fine or suspension, but given Voracek turned into the hit unknowingly, no action likely will be taken.
The hit was so violet, Voraceks helmet become loosened. He tried to get up and collapsed, but somehow eventually skated to the bench and headed to the dressing room.
Kronwall said it felt like a clean hit.
The Flyers reacted angrily and it seemed to spur them. Briere said he wanted to puke. Replays may have changed some minds later.
I didn't see it, just the replay, Claude Giroux said. It was a good hit and I didn't really see it either if it was a head shot or not, but Kronwall is pretty good at those hits.
Players said Voracek seemed lucid and OK, except for the stitches to the upper and lower lip.
Giroux, who is nursing a bruised hand after getting slashed by Washingtons Jason Chimera, took just two faceoffs in the game, yielding to Scott Hartnell.
Well, Giroux didnt seem to have any issue scoring his 24th goal to break the tie at 18:11. He chased down Braydon Coburns chip up the right boards, then went forehand-backhand for his first goal in six games.
I got a lucky bounce and I was able to get the puck behind the D, Giroux said. Anytime you get a chance like that, you obviously want to put it in the net and I was able
to do that.
Hartnell, incidentally, took seven faceoffs that first period and a career-high 16 (won seven).
What do you mean one hand? Giroux said when asked about not taking draws. Hartsy's been good on faceoffs and in the playoffs sometimes I get kicked out so we want Hartsys to get in there. He's got a heavy stick and he works hard for faceoffs.
Anyway, Kronwalls hit on Voracek led to a rather chippy finish to the second period with the Flyers stretching their lead to 3-1 at 14:10 on Talbots 18th goal.
While skating shorthanded and still fuming about the lack of a call on Kronwall, Giroux generated a rush to the net. MacDonald made the save, but Talbot pocketed the rebound for his second shorthanded goal of the season, and 14th of his career.
Obviously, every time you have the chance to play with Claude Giroux, he is out there for a defensive reason on the penalty kill, Talbot said.
When he blocks a shot like that and goes to the net, he brought the two defensemen with him. I was lucky enough to get a rebound.
Bryzgalov, meanwhile, had a couple of nice saves off deflections, including one through traffic on Kronwall after Talbots goal. That set up the tense finish in the third period.
This last month, they get a quick goal, the other team and we kind of bear down after, Giroux said.
Bryz after that first goal, I didn't see where it was, but it was a good shot. After he beared down, they didn't have much on him.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com.