SAN JOSE, Calif. Sometimes the hockey gods cut you a break. What you do with it is entirely up to you.
That the highest-scoring team (203 goals) could get shut out against a depleted Sharks club right now is mind-numbing.
Sure, the Flyers were at the end of a four-game, 10-day road trip, but thats nothing compared to the injury-riddled Sharks, who limped into HP Pavilion off a horrific 2-6-1, 16-day road trip.
No Logan Couture for San Jose. No Doug Murray. Even coach Todd McLellan was out injured with a concussion.
And still, the Flyers were shutout for the second time in three games, 1-0, to finish their last western road swing with a 2-2 record.
Did we mention Peter Laviolettes club fell to sixth place in the Eastern Conference, as well?
Again, we had a bad start and when they score on their first shot, its like we dig ourselves in a hole, said Claude Giroux, who was held to zero shots after 19 in his previous three games.
We cant be playing catch-up again. Weve been doing that all season and its killing us. We got to find a way to get a better start.
Ilya Bryzgalov gave up a bad early goal, then played very well, as San Jose made one goal count in what was a hard-hitting, defensive game reminiscent of what the Flyers will see in the playoffs.
That was a tight-checking game, Laviolette said. There needs to be more of that playoff intent from the start. The gaps were too soft, the skating was labored, at times, the checking is tough to generate any offense.
I dont think we generated 10 scoring chances. I dont think they generated much more than that but they made good on one of them. Early on, we needed to be tighter at the blue line and defend the gap better. They came in, got a pick, took a shot and scored.
Incredibly, the Flyers have not beaten San Jose since Dec. 21, 2000 back home. They have not won here since Nov. 5, 1999. They are now 0-5-1-1 against the Sharks since before the new millennium began.
So why cant the Flyers beat the Sharks here or anywhere else?
I dont know, said Danny Briere, who survived a head-first hit into the boards by Marc-Edouard Vlasic late in the game (see story).
Theres buildings like that. Theres teams sometimes. This just doesnt seem like the right fit for us. Edmonton is one of those, as well. And then theres other places you seem to play well and find ways to win even when you dont deserve it. I dont know how to explain it.
Laviolette mixed things up in this one, demoting Briere to Sean Couturiers fourth line with Zac Rinaldo. Briere came into the game without having scored a goal in 16 games.
Also changed were two of the defensive pairs. Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle partnered up, while Kimmo Timonen worked with Pavel Kubina.
You cant make this stuff up: for the second straight game, Bryzgalov gave up a goal on the games first shot.
Too often were giving up the first goal on the first shot too often, Laviolette bristled.
This time, it was Ryan Clowe beating him high blocker side from the left circle just 1:22 into play. It was Clowes first goal in 12 games and also represented the 11th time in 12 games the Flyers gave up the games opening goal.
It was deflected off a skate, Bryzgalov said. It hit our guy when he tried to block it and redirected.
So once again the Flyers were chasing the game from the drop of the puck.
Its been a problem the past 30 games, too, especially against a team like this that can score goals, Briere said.
They can really injure you. You dont want to play catch-up against them. You look at their top two lines. Theyre one of the most potent in all of hockey.
After the rocky start, Bryzgalov settled down and played rather well in the period, challenging shooters.
I felt good I like this building, I like to play here, said Bryzgalov, who had 22 saves.
Laviolette thought he played well, too.
He played a good game, he said. He made some big saves in the third.
On one rush, the Flyers defense allowed Dan Boyle to walk in and fired from 10 feet on Bryz, who came out to make the stop. Uncontested shots from a guy like Boyle cant happen.
It was kind a defensive game we didnt give them much either, said Jaromir Jagr, who had one shot. They needed to win the hockey game and so did we.
Bryzgalov outplayed Antti Niemi, who finished with 26 saves. What was so frustrating was that the Flyers owned the puck but kept shooting it right into Niemis gut far too often, making it easy on him.
Its going to be every game like that until the playoffs and in the playoffs, Jagr said. Its kind of tough. Most of the shots were getting blocked by the defense. We have to find a way to get it in.
Maybe shoot quicker. Dont wait till guys come there. Shoot before and maybe we get rebounds. Were waiting too much and giving the defense time to cover the corners. We have to find better timing.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at firstname.lastname@example.org