Bryzgalov solid in 1st game vs. Flyers since buyout

Bryzgalov solid in 1st game vs. Flyers since buyout

Flyers on beating former teammate Bryzgalov

December 29, 2013, 11:30 am
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Ilya Bryzgalov made 35 saves in the Oilers' 4-3 loss to the Flyers on Saturday. (USA Today Images)

Dan Mcquade

EDMONTON, Alberta — Ilya Bryzgalov looked over his right shoulder and saw the puck hit the net. Already on his knees, he fell face-first to the ice.

It was not the ending Bryzgalov wanted.

In his first game against his former Flyers teammates, Bryzgalov and the Oilers lost 4-3 in a shootout (see story). Michael Raffl made his first-ever NHL shootout attempt count, patiently faking Bryzgalov to the ice and snapping one top-shelf.

Bryzgalov said he treated the game like any other contest. “I had that experience before in my life, it’s nothing,” he said postgame, but he admitted he was frustrated after giving up the game-tying goal with 5:32 left in the third. After Scott Hartnell redirected a Kimmo Timonen shot past Bryz, the goaltender flipped his stick into the air behind him and onto the ice.

“I tried to lose the steam,” Bryzgalov said. “It was a little bit of frustration.”

Though the Oilers lost, Bryzgalov played well against the team that signed him to a nine-year, $51 million deal in June 2011 and bought him out two years later. Despite giving up three goals, he was named the game’s third star.

“He played unreal tonight,” Oilers left wing Taylor Hall said. “I’m sure he wanted to play well. It’s not an easy circumstance to play against a team that you used to play for and you used to wear their jersey.”

Bryzgalov gave up three goals in regulation, but none were all his fault. All three came on the power play, two on redirections and another after some nice passing from the Flyers. He stopped all 29 even-strength shots. He poked away Sean Couturier’s breakaway attempt seconds into the second period. He did a nice job cutting off the angle on a Braydon Coburn attempt 30 seconds into OT. He kind of looked like the type of goalie the Flyers would sign to a nine-year deal.

The Oilers came into the game with the NHL’s worst defense, giving up 3.35 goals per game -- eight more goals than the second-worst team. The Flyers outshot Edmonton 11-8 in the first period, but couldn’t get anything past Bryzgalov. The Oilers had a 2-0 lead at the end of the first with both goals coming in the first four minutes.

“I know they’re not going to quit, probably,” Bryzgalov said of the two-goal lead. “I know what’s coming. I know they’re going to play hard and they’re going to shoot lots of pucks and they’re going to crash the net.”

True to Bryzgalov’s word, the Flyers didn’t quit: Sean Couturier had a breakaway less than 20 seconds in, though Bryzgalov poked the puck away. Couturier got a second chance moments later after an Edmonton turnover, but hit the side of the net. Later in the period, Bryzgalov went sprawling after saving a Jakob Voracek shot, but the Flyers missed two opportunities at the open net with Bryzgalov splayed on the ice.

But while he stopped everything thrown his way even-strength on Saturday night, Bryzgalov couldn’t overcome the Oilers’ penalties. The Flyers finally got one past him 3:37 into the second period. Just 16 seconds into a power play, Wayne Simmonds redirected a Claude Giroux one-timer past Bryzgalov to cut the deficit to 2-1. Simmonds tied it up with his second power-play goal after some nifty passing by Voracek and Scott Hartnell.

“The way Philadelphia sets up, it’s extremely hard to defend,” Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. “Their set-up, their seam passes -- you have to be so alert, and so quick -- and sometimes there’s nothing you can do because they have an extra guy out there.”

Bryzgalov saved 35 of 38 shots in his 65 minutes of action, but could only stop Vincent Lecavalier in the shootout. With the Flyers down 1-0,  Giroux casually shot one through Bryzgalov’s five-hole as if he’d done it a thousand times in practice.

“He has a couple moves in his pocket,” Bryzgalov said, “and you just don’t know which one he’s going to pull.”

After Sam Gagner sent one wide for the Oilers, Raffl gave the Flyers the win one shooter later.

The Flyers bought out Bryzgalov’s contract in June. He started 97 games for the Flyers, posting a 52-33-10 record. His goals-against average rose to 2.79 in the 2012-13 season and the Flyers missed the playoffs for only the second time since the 1994-95 season.

Bryzgalov signed with Edmonton in early November. This season with the Oilers, Bryzgalov is 2-4-1 with a 2.80 GAA and a .916 save percentage. His replacement with the Flyers, Steve Mason -- acquired from Columbus for Michael Leighton and a third-round pick late last season -- is 15-9-4 with a 2.37 GAA and a .921 save percentage.

The buyout means the Flyers owe Bryzgalov two-thirds of the remaining $34.5 million on the contract over the next 14 years. He’s making $1,642,857.14 from the Flyers every year until 2027, but the money does not count against the team’s salary cap. Bryzgalov is making $2 million this year with the Oilers. He made $47,671 from last night’s game: $27,637 from Edmonton and $20,034 from the Flyers.