The first two periods of Saturday's matchup with the Devils couldn't have gone much worse for the Flyers. Sluggish, uninspired early play by the Flyers combined with crisp, aggressive answers from the Devils and some frightfully bad refereeing saw the home team struggling to stop the bleeding late in the first period and throughout the second.
Sergei Bobrovsky was relieved just shy of the game's midway point, the Flyers down 6-0 at the time. Ilya Bryzgalov came in and pitched a shutout while his skaters did everything they could to turn the game around, mounting a respectable comeback but ultimately falling by a 6-4 count.
A look at the action below, including video of the amazingly bad non-call that keyed the Devils' early dominance.
Now, while the expletives were flying around Delaware Valley living rooms and both bowls at the Wells Fargo Center, the refs weren't the only reason the Flyers lost this game. Not for lack of trying though. The zebras really jobbed the Flyers in this one, particularly early.
Less than three minutes into the game, the Devils were given a two-man advantage on a so-so call against Kimmo Timonen with Marc-Andre Bourdon already in the box. Some nice puck movement resulted in the puck being on a wide open Kurtis "Bananas" Foster's stick, and he emptied it out in a hurry.
The Devils kept the pressure up throughout the period, peppering Bob with 17 shots to the Flyers' seven. Two SOGs in the final minute of the frame made it 3-1 Devils, and they had Flyers fans ready to drag the refs through the streets of South Philly.
Here's video of how the first one came about, with the Flyers on a power play…
Dainius Zubrus clearly trips Giroux before stripping the puck off the prostrate centerman, then finds Ilya Kovalchuk for the Devils' league-leading 12th shorty.
To make matters even worse, Zubrus would score again with less than a second to play in the period. It was a very nice shooting effort by Zubrus, but … he should have been in the box at the time. Then, during the goal scoring/celebration sequence, Scott Hartnell took a high-sticking penalty, perhaps due to frustration over the non-call. On the ensuing power play to start the second period, the Devils scored again.
One blown call, which should have resulted in a 5-on-3 for the Flyers, directly impacted three goals the other way.
OK, enough whining (although there was more cause for it)…
The Flyers didn't respond well at all in the second period, conceding that goal and two more, including yet another Foster goal on the 5-on-3.
The third period was a whole different game. Bryzgalov relieved Bob in the second and didn't allow a goal the rest of the way. The offense came alive in the third, sparked by one of the few guys who had been playing well all afternoon—Wayne Simmonds. Simmer battled in front of the net to get multiple efforts off on Johan Hedberg, the final one beating him on a pretty swat.
Jaromir Jagr, who took a beating all afternoon and thinks he may have broken the tip of his finger on a slash, scored the Flyers' second goal, followed by Claude Giroux potting his 20th of the season on a power play and Jake Voracek giving us all that glimmer of hope to bring the game within two.
The game got pretty nasty in the third, and it was to the Flyers' advantage. One sequence in particular saw a full-line skirmish that saw a small parade to the box, including Zac Rinaldo, Simmonds, Anton Vochenkov, and Bryce Salvador, plus a pair of unlikely combatants. Brayden Schenn and Ilya Kovalchuk threw down in a bout the rookie won't soon forget, if he remembers it at all. He hung in there with the much larger Kovalchuk for a while, but ultimately took a nasty right hand to the grill.
The good news was, the surprise penalty killing weapon Kovalchuk was in the box for the ensuing Flyers power play, which was when Giroux converted.
The finish was to be admired, with no quit in
a Flyers team that was getting smoked by the Devils and jobbed by the refs for the better part of two periods. But the Flyers didn't play anywhere near their best hockey, which will net them the same result tomorrow if they repeat it against the Rangers.
Simmonds has tied a career high in goals (16) and has three in four games against the Devils. He also has three in his past two games and six in over nine.
The day in misleading stats: The Flyers outshot the Devils by 10 (41-31). However, the shooting stats became far more true when broken down by period. The Flyers posted an amazing 24-1 shot total in the third, when they scored four unanswered goals. Per Elias, that 23-shot period differential is the largest in Flyers history.
Good to see Giroux score again after potting his first in a month on an empty netter on Thursday. Same for Jagr, who gave G the EN gift and reaped the reward today.
Two good post-goal signs of who this Flyers team is: Simmonds scored their first of the game, but had less than even a smile in celebration. In fact, he shook his head, seemingly still in disgust at the state of the game. When Jagr scored, there was no salute. These guys know their effort wouldn't be erased by a few goals, and individual marks were relatively meaningless in this bloodbath.
Bob can't be blamed for his showing, particularly not the pair of 5-on-3 goals he allowed. Either way, good to see Bryz come in cold and look sharp, stemming the tide.
If only we still had access to that 24/7-like footage for this one. Peter Laviolette looked ready to run onto the ice at several points to give the refs a hand in seeing the game a little more closely.