Flyers start fast, but fail to hold off Devils

Flyers start fast, but fail to hold off Devils

February 15, 2013, 9:15 pm
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Ilya Bryzgalov allowed four goals in the Flyers' 5-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils. (USA Today Images)

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. – Ilya Bryzgalov watched the entire game unfold from the ice. But like his teammates and undoubtedly their fans, the Flyers’ goaltender didn’t know where things went wrong Friday night against the New Jersey Devils.

“I don’t know,” said an obviously frustrated Bryzgalov. “You’ve got to ask the coach. He makes the statements.”

The Flyers sat back and watched a 3-1 first-period lead turn into an eventual 5-3 loss, bringing their record against Atlantic Division opponents to a dismal 1-4.

And as for the coach’s statement, Peter Laviolette didn’t have much to say other than what was immediately apparent to anyone who watched more than the first 20 minutes of Friday’s affair at the Prudential Center.

“We came out and played a good first period,” Peter Laviolette said. “The second period and the third period were not as strong for us offensively. We made a mistake and it ended up in our net.”

The game actually started off poorly for the Flyers, who gave up a goal to Travis Zajac on the very first Devils shot just 40 seconds after the first puck dropped. But instead of deflating and falling back on their heels after the early deficit, the Flyers responded.

Winger Wayne Simmonds kicked off an impressive first-period rebound with a backhanded shot from the slot on the power play that tied the game at 1. Less than two minutes later, Mike Knuble swept a shot up through a crowd of skaters and past Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.

Forty-eight seconds after that, Matt Read added to the tally, giving the Flyers the 3-1 lead they simply weren’t able to hold onto. The three goals, scored in just 2:36, are the fastest the Flyers have ever scored against Brodeur – 23 seconds faster than their previous record against the veteran goaltender, set in 2002.

“It seemed like every shift we had that period, we were down there cycling pretty good,” Knuble said. “We had a couple of really good shifts right away.”

But once the second period kicked off, those strong shifts became a thing of the past. The Flyers allowed another early goal 26 seconds into the second period to Alexei Ponikarovsky, playing in his first game since returning to the Devils. Patrik Elias capitalized on an ugly turnover by Kimmo Timonen to tie the game at 3.

“In the first period, we were on the attack offensively,” Laviolette said. “The second and third period, not quite as much. They picked up their game a little bit. They had their chances in the second and the third – and they scored on them.

“That’s pretty much it.”

The Flyers managed to hold the Devils to just 19 shots (compared to their 28), which should have resulted in a better outcome. Bryzgalov played a solid game once again, but turnovers were once again a problem. Too many times, the Flyers missed passes or got just a bit too sloppy with the puck.

And when they did, the Devils were able to capitalize.

“We probably had a few too many turnovers in the neutral zone and they were quality chances that we gave up,” Luke Schenn said. “We kept them to a low shot amount, but a lot of those were too quality chances.”

As rough as the Flyers’ final period felt, they held the Devils to just three shots. David Clarkson’s goal with just about nine minutes left in the game felt like the final blow needed. The Devils added to it, though, with an empty-netter from Steve Bernier with less than two minutes to play.

The Flyers have now lost four of their last five regular-season games against the Devils, and their last six including the postseason. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially after the way Friday’s game looked after the first period.

“Guys were skating hard today,” Claude Giroux said. “It’s a hard rink to play in, but when you got a 3-1 lead, I think you need to find a way to get it done. We’re going to learn from this, obviously.”

The good news? The Flyers won’t have long to dwell on the loss. They’re back at it Saturday evening in Montreal, where they’ll face the Canadiens in less than 24 hours.

“You’ve got to forget about what happened tonight and try to win tomorrow night’s game,” Bryzgalov said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

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