Why start flat and struggle to come all the way back when you can just score four goals in the first period and play defense for the rest of the game? Makes sense, right?
The Philadelphia Flyers jumped all over the Phoenix Coyotes early, with four different skaters—Matt Read, Wayne Simmonds, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell—getting on the score sheet to force a goaltending change after the opening twenty. From there, the Flyers would sit back and do their best to protect their lead.
Behind a stellar performance from goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, that strategy would prove successful. The 4-2 final score wraps up the team's West Coast swing and secures all four available points on the trip. [full highlights below]
Saturday night was certainly a change of pace for the Flyers, who have made a recent habit of putting together some absolutely dreadful starts. For Phoenix, the opening period was equally uncharacteristic, though, in their case, uncharacteristically bad. Heading into the game, the Coyotes had given up just 10 goals during the first period all season. That total now stands at 14 after the Flyers made goalie Mike Smith's evening a woefully short affair.
Smith would be pulled after the first in favor of Jason Labarbera, whose workload no doubt made the starter envious. Possibly winded from being on the second-leg of a West Coast back-to-back, the Flyers stayed on their own side of the red line and played a whole lot of defense during the second and third, generating just 13 shots in those periods as compared to their 17 in the first.
Though it may sound like they sat back to trap, they really sat back just to hang on. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was the unquestionable hero of the game, turning aside 36 of the 38 shots sent his way. Indeed, his second goal allowed wouldn't come until 19:19 mark of the third period. While he might be a little upset to have conceded the extra tally so late in the proceedings, it was nothing to sweat over given the rest of his evening. The former Coyote made a host of key saves throughout the game on a number of really quality Phoenix scoring chances. His performance in the win secures back-to-back victories for the goaltender over both of his former clubs in Phoenix and Anaheim.
Mandatory Claude Giroux is Ridiculous Reminder:
As Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul both went scoreless on Saturday evening, Flyer forward Claude Giroux is now tied for the league lead in points thanks to this first period slap shot, which probably could have killed someone had they made the mistake of getting in the way.
The Flyers will have the next three days off and then start off on another back-to-back when they travel to Buffalo on Wednesday and return home to host Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.