UNIONDALE. N.Y. When the Flyers signed Ilya Bryzgalov over the summer, they certainly werent expecting the goaltender to falter like he did through much of the first half of the season.
But they couldnt have been expecting hed set a new team record for consecutive shutout minutes, either. And theres no way anyone was expecting him to do so only after struggling so mightily for so long.
On Thursday night at the Nassau Coliseum, however, with 8:22 left to play in the second period, Bryzgalov bested the record of 227:40 set in 1999 by John Vanbiesbrouck.
Bryzgalovs teammates didnt make it easy for him especially early. Ahead of the game, coach Peter Laviolette talked about how happy he had been with the Flyers performance Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils. It was a complete game, he said, from Bryzgalovs performance in net to the defense in front of him to the chances generated by the offense.
But they didnt exactly follow it up with a similar effort from the get-go on Thursday. Like they had been just a few weeks ago, the Flyers were slow to get started not doing much favor for Bryzgalov. The goalie stayed strong, however, stopping shots through traffic and making up for more than a couple mistakes committed by his defensemen.
When the Flyers were finally able to clear their zone, though, they made it count somehow. Zac Rinaldo lobbed the puck at Isles goalie Evgeni Nabokov from the goal line (a 90-degree angle) and Nabokov mishandled it, allowing it to slip past him.
Even Rinaldo was shocked the puck went in. Hey, as they say, the ugly ones count just as much as the pretty ones.
"I threw it on net hoping for a rebound and my luck it went in, Rinaldo said. I was kind of surprised the puck went in but I saw it go in before anyone else so I wasn't too surprised as much as everyone else. You just hope for the best and things happen.
And when the Flyers followed up Rinaldos tally just a few minutes later, they did so with a pretty play. Jaromir Jagr sent the puck perfectly onto Claude Girouxs stick, and the Flyers center one-timed it past Nabokov to bring the score to 2-0. The goal, Girouxs 26th, marked a new career high for him. He scored 25 last season.
The Flyers came into the second period with more energy, as was quickly apparent when Wayne Simmonds and Isles winger Matt Martin dropped the gloves. Simmonds took the brunt of the punches, but it was the Flyers who found the back of the net next. On a breakaway, Scott Hartnell charged in on Nabokov and sent the puck top-shelf, netting his 32nd of the year.
The Flyers carried the three-goal lead into the second intermission, but the first pair of periods wasnt a perfect effort by anyone but the Flyers goaltender. The defense was too loose, sloppy at worst, getting caught flat-footed a few times. If not for their streaking netminder, it could have been a very different first 40 minutes.
As all good things must do, however, Bryzgalovs shutout streak came to an end with 6:30 left in the third. Michael Grabner bested him first, and right on the heels of that goal, John Tavares bested Bryzgalov again to help the Islanders inch closer. The goals were scored on back-to-back shots.