Garon and Lightning Send Bryzgalov Back to Woods

Garon and Lightning Send Bryzgalov Back to Woods

The look on Ilya Bryzgalov's face in his post-game chat with the beats just about said it all. Wide-eyed, staring, stunned. What the stare failed to express, the Russian netminder made clear, even dropping the ol' audible F-bomb live on air for all to hear.

Bryzgalov and the Flyers ceded five goals on just 16 credited Tampa Bay Lightning shots. Mathieu Garon, who has taken over as Tampa's starter, looked shaky to start the game, but weathered an early Flyers barrage and seemed increasingly sharp as the game moved on. There was a fun highlight reel goal and a huge win in a fight, but an overall poor effort in the second period cooked the Flyers.

A closer look at the game and some unanswered questions about Bryzgalov and the overall defensive struggles, below. Plus, Bryz's postgame comments, which will likely make the next 24/7 ep.

In their last trip to Tampa, the Flyers had trouble getting shots on goal much less in it. Tonight, they had 17 shots in the first period alone while limiting the Lightning to just four. However, Bruno Gervais scored on the second of them, nearly 10 minutes into the period. A soft shot off the face-off appeared to change direction off of Brayden Schenn's stick, falling through a hole that probably should have been a little tighter on Bryz's part.

Scott Hartnell's goal off another brilliant creation by Claude Giroux knotted it at one-apiece, and the Flyers appeared to have the edge. Unfortunately, they apparently left it in the locker room, unable to get anything going in the second. Steven Stamkos' 21st and 22nd goals bookended a vomitous Steve Downie contribution, and the Flyers managed all of THREE shots on goal over the middle 20 minutes (see shots note below though).

The game got increasingly rough over the course of the second, with both sides testing the refs. Hartnell goaded an entire bench of blue-clad Lightning players, trading some stickwork with them, even causing Ryan Malone to jump the boards to try to get after him (unsuccessful) and Downie to swing a stick at him. That and a sound beating of Eric Brewer by Wayne Simmonds weren't able to tip the scales in the Flyers' favor, and Tampa held control the rest of the way.

What's Up in Net?
The answers aren't easy as to what's causing the Flyers' lapses in their own end. They're having trouble clearing out traffic, even allowing the obvious threats like Stamkos far too much space. Screens, deflections, and bad bounces also have played a huge role, with each contributing to Downie's goal. However, Bryzgalov looked slow reacting and going post to post, which was even more apparent with Garon stopping second efforts repeatedly. Bryz looked like he knew he had no shot at stopping the second period goals; even if that's the case, it's not something that should show up in the body language before the puck crosses the line.

If his head isn't right, his body's not in the right position.

On the one hand, you hope his luck off bad bounces improves and brings his save percentage up with it. But his confidence appeared shaky on the ice, and his frustrations were apparent when he fielded questions afterward. Like, letters-to-the-network apparent (see video below, which has a bleep the live feed did not). Lavvy has a tough decision to make heading into Thursday night's game in Pittsburgh—the last before the Flyers play in the highest profile event on the hockey calendar.

The shots on goal totals are a little misleading in this one, as is often the case. Tampa was successful in blocking quite a few (22) while plenty missed the net (19). At the other end, the Lightning had as many shots not reach the net as they put on goal (seven blocked, nine missing the net).

No matter how you slice it up though, the Flyers took a ton more shots than the Lightning (73 vs 32), and had some very strong opportunities, but couldn't beat Garon more than once.

At times, the Flyers looked like they were on the power play despite being at even strength. On the power play, they had trouble getting shots through to the net.

Malone and Hartnell each got a 10-min misconduct for the incident by the TB bench in the second, but the league could give its old buddy Steve Downie a call for the slash he sent Hartnell's way from over the boards.

Giroux's assist moved him to 44 points on the season, 17 goals and 37 helpers. He's two points ahead of Evgeni Malkin.

This brutal road month can't end soon enough. Carrying a great overall away record, the Flyers appear road-weary at this point, losing back-to-back away from home for the first time all season. Hopefully they don't make it three in a row on Thursday.

Bryzgalov Postgame

Quote of the Night
    —Ilya Bryzgalov, frustrated, sarcastically, on his performance.

Game Highlights

Ex-Penn State TE Brent Wilkerson gets probation for indecent assault

USA Today Images

Ex-Penn State TE Brent Wilkerson gets probation for indecent assault

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — A former Penn State football player will serve five years' probation and register as a sex offender after pleading guilty to indecent assault.

Twenty-two-year-old Brent Wilkerson was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty in connection with a February outing to several bars with a young woman and others.

Police say Wilkerson was drunk but the woman was sober when he insisted on making sure she got home safe.

The woman tells police Wilkerson pushed her upstairs to her bedroom where he fell asleep. The woman says she went to bed later and woke up to find Wilkerson kissing and fondling her and fondling himself. He later apologized in a text message.

Wilkerson was kicked off the team in March. Court records say he lives in Clinton, Maryland.

Union-Toronto FC 5 things: Embracing the playoff underdog role

Union-Toronto FC 5 things: Embracing the playoff underdog role

Union vs. Toronto FC
7:30 p.m. on ESPN2

Riding a seven-game winless run entering their first playoff match since 2011, the No. 6 Union (11-14-9) will attempt to hit the reset button and unseat the third-ranked and heavily favored Toronto FC (14-9-11) on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., ESPN2) at BMO Field.

Here are five things to know:

1. Playing underdog
The struggling Union are happily accepting the role as underdogs against MLS Cup-hungry Toronto FC.

"It's a difficult task but it’s not impossible,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. "Not many people are giving us a chance. We've been a good team when we're considered the underdog and my guys have responded well in that situation. This is no different."

To fully embrace that underdog role, and in an attempt to wash away the stink of how they ended the regular season, the Union are treating Wednesday as a hard reset. For them, the playoffs will be a fresh chance to prove themselves.

“It’s a new season now,” said Union center back Ken Tribbett, who helped his club draw Toronto FC at BMO Field on Sept. 24. “In the playoffs, anything can happen. We go up to Toronto and it’ll be a good test. We have to stay sharp for 90 minutes and hopefully we can come back here with a win.”

And there is a reason to be slightly optimistic about the Union’s chance. Despite a 1-0-1 record against the Canadian side this season, the Union, who lost 3-1 in the first match, played much better on Sept. 24 at BMO Field. They clogged the midfield and ground the Sebastian Giovinco-less club into a 1-1 draw.

“It’s encouraging that we have gone there recently and played well,” Curtin said. “I think we have a group that has a belief, and one that is pissed a bit about how things have ended. They are motivated.”

2. Leaning on experience
While the 2016 Union will ultimately be known for their reliance on youth — a group that included Keegan Rosenberry, who has played every minute this season, Fabian Herbers, Josh Yaro and Ken Tribbett — it’s the veterans that will lead them on Wednesday.

“This is a pressure game for everybody,” Curtin said. “We have a good balance of guys who have played in big spots, like (Chris) Pontius, Tranquillo (Barnetta), (Alejandro) Bedoya. (C.J.) Sapong has played in big games, you can go through the list.”

Yet despite Curtin’s need for his veterans to lead, his reliance on youth means the younger players need to be reliable. The manager admitted that pressure can change how people play, and he is making sure the Union youth movement remains steady on Wednesday.

“We have young guys, there’s no question about it,” Curtin said. “These guys will play in their first playoff game and a lot of the guys on our roster have never been in a playoff game. You hope they rise to the occasion and I’m confident they will.”

3. Pressure on Toronto
Making their second-ever postseason appearance, high-priced Toronto FC has its sights set on bigger things than the Union in the play-in playoff round. That’s why Curtin believes the pressure is squarely on his opposition.

“I’d say the pressure is on them, they are the home team,” the manager said. “My guys should be loose, they have nothing to lose. It’s fair to say, they are the home team and they want to make a deep playoff run. We want to make some noise.”

Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney knows his team will be excited, so he’s trying to instill a high intensity but controlled start for his club.

“We expect a little of the unexpected at the start,” he said. “The game settles down eventually, but at the start, there’s a lot of emotion into it and you want to play with the right kind of caution but the right kind of intensity to put the opposing team on their back foot.

“The guys are ready to go, ready to go after Philadelphia.”

4. Keep an eye on
Jozy Altidore: It would be easy to go with Giovinco here, but Altidore has a recent history of crushing the Union. He has two goals in his last three games against the Union and buried 10 in 23 games this season.

“Jozy is a guy who can stretch the field and is dangerous,” Curtin said. “He’s not a guy you can shut down, it’s not possible. He’ll have his moments, you just have to make those looks as predictable for (goalkeeper Andre Blake) as you can. You hope he’s a little off on the night.”

Tranquillo Barnetta: Without added inspiration, the Union offensive catalyst has been one of the club’s best players all season. On Wednesday, Curtin expects a little extra from Barnetta, who is not returning to the Union in 2017.

“I’ve talked a ton about how special he is, he’s been a great attribute for the Union and a guy we want to prolong the season for,” Curtin said. “He’s played in the big spots, the big games and there’s something extra there for him.” 

5. This and that
• On the injury front, Union center back Yaro sprained his MCL while returning from a concussion. “It’s a two-week injury,” Curtin said, “so it will be unfortunate he won’t be part of the Toronto game.”

Warren Creavalle is also fighting injury. The defensive midfielder left Sunday’s match with a rib injury but could be available for Wednesday. “It’s painful for him,” Curtin said. “He’s a tough kid and he wants to be a part of this game.”

• The Union and Toronto FC are deadlocked all time, with a 6-6-5 record against each other. 

• The Union are 2-4-3 at BMO Field.

• Both clubs enter Wednesday limping. Since August 27 (the Union’s last win), Toronto FC is 2-1-4, while the Union are 0-5-2.