UNIONDALE, N.Y. As Ilya Bryzgalov looked on from his lonely perch in the crowd at the Nassau Coliseum, the other Flyers goalie stood strong and helped his team to victory.
In fact, it took only 2:49 for Bryzgalov and everyone else watching the Flyers and Islanders to realize what kind of evening Sergei Bobrovsky was going to have.
Bobrovsky came up huge for the Flyers when Isles winger Michael Grabner was awarded a penalty shot. Confident and collected, Bob came way out of his net before perfectly turning away Grabners shot to keep the game scoreless early.
He kept the same calm through the remainder of the game, slipping up just twice. All he needed was for his teammates to contribute to the scoreboard. And they did, allowing the Flyers to win their second straight, 3-2.
He was amazing, Max Talbot. He won the game for us. He made the big saves at the right moments and hes a big reason we won the game.
Goalies on both sides of the ice stole the show early on. Isles goalie Evgeni Nabokov has a record of success against the Flyers (hed never lost in regulation to them ahead of Thursdays game), but Bobrovsky proved to be the stronger of the two netminders.
He was terrific, coach Peter Laviolette said. He looked really sharp, I thought, through the entire game. And hes looked that way for his last 10 starts or so. He did a good job.
They came away with the win, but the Flyers werent at their best Thursday night. There were too many defensive breakdowns and turnovers again, a few needless penalties. But the victory eked out of the game keeps them within two points of the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers.
Its a big relief, Danny Briere said. Our last two games, we havent played the type of hockey that is kind of the Flyers identity. Sometimes during the season its just not going to be there or youre going to have a hard time using your legs. There were a couple turnovers that wed like to have back, but Bob was huge again. Youve got to give him credit for the last two wins.
The Flyers and Islanders exchanged chances in the opening stanza, but as the minutes ticked toward a close, it was the Islanders who seemed to steal most of the momentum. That is, until a power-play opportunity and a snubbed Scott Hartnell (see blog post) combined to break the tie.
Quarterbacked by Jaromir Jagr, the Flyers power-play unit beat Nabokov almost immediately. Jagr fed the puck in on net from the top of the circle, and Hartnell redirected it home past Nabokov to send the Flyers into the first intermission up 1-0.
Thats one way to make the NHL feel bad for overlooking you for the All-Star Game, huh?
The Flyers didnt use the momentum early in the second, however. They backed off at first, allowing the Islanders to generate the majority of the quality chances in the middle period. If not for Bobrovsky, who launched across the net to stop an impressive Grabner shot midway
through the second, the Flyers could have easily relinquished the lead.
Its been a little hesitant for the last couple games, Laviolette said, of the Flyers game. We were just talking about it in there, we were talking about tightening things up defensively and making sure that weve got depth against the oppositions attack. Sometimes when you dont do that, you lose your identity a little bit.
But Bob stood strong, and it was the Flyers who added to their lead next.
Wayne Simmonds, on what looked like more of a centering pass attempt than an actual shot, hurled the puck in on net. Somehow, it slid between Nabokovs legs and across the goal line to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead. It was Simmonds first goal in eight games.
The goal definitely surprised me, Simmonds said. I didn't think it went in. I thought it got stuck against the post until I saw the ref pointing at the net. It was a lucky goal, but I'll take it.
There was a scary moment in the final period for Talbot. He was hit along the boards by Islanders defenseman Steve Staios. It looked to be a headshot the kind the NHL is working hard to remove but went without penalty.
Talbot fell to the ice and was unable to get up under his own power at first. He was attended to by Flyers medical staff, however, and did return to finish the game.
Bobrovsky finally slipped up twice in the third period. He surrendered a goal to Kyle Okposo on a rebound, cutting the Flyers lead in half in the first minute of play. He allowed another just moments after rookie Sean Couturier scored his second goal in two games, bringing
the score to 3-2.
As a number of the players said after the game, the Flyers effort was far from perfect. But with two mediocre games resulting in two victories this week, theyre aware it could be a lot worse.
I dont think we played our best game, Talbot said. The positive of that is we won this game and it was a big two points for us. But we turned the puck over a little too much. A couple of times, we werent shape. We definitely need to be better than that.