Sestito scores twice to lift Flyers over Lightning

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Sestito scores twice to lift Flyers over Lightning

BOX SCORE

Tom Sestito had played all of 31 NHL games in his career. He had never scored a goal in 18 games as a Flyer and hadn’t hit the back of the net in more than two years.

But after Tuesday’s 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, in which he scored both Flyer goals, Sestito joked that maybe he ought to ask coach Peter Laviolette about taking on some time on the team’s first line.

“Should have got the hat trick, though,” a smiling Sestito said. “I think one more shift.”

In a way, Sestito was emblematic of the Flyers’ effort against the Lightning, a notoriously dangerous team that has given the orange and black trouble in recent seasons. Instead of falling back on their heels, as they did just over a week ago in Tampa, the Flyers played a complete game, making every shift in every zone count.

Or, as Max Talbot put it: “Everybody contributed.” Even the on-again, off-again healthy scratch Sestito.

“Tonight, everybody really played a solid game,” Talbot said. “We played great defense, and by ‘playing great defense’ I don’t mean only in our defensive zone, I mean in all three zones. There was good gaps, good checks, good backchecks from our forwards.”

There were early chances by both sides and equally sharp responses by the two netminders. Few sharper, arguably, than Ilya Bryzgalov’s first-period stop on Lightning center Steven Stamkos.

The Wells Fargo Center was at its loudest, though, when Zac Rinaldo took on Tampa Bay’s B.J. Crombeen. It didn’t take long for the underdog Rinaldo -- three inches and 40 pounds lighter than Crombeen -- to knock the Lightning winger unconscious.

That contest must have inspired horror flick director Rob Zombie, in the building to observe Flyers fans in their natural habitat. Zombie is working on a film influenced by the Broad Street Bullies.

“It gave us a huge bolt of energy that came through the building and the fans and players, teammates, coaches -- everybody,” Laviolette said. “It was one of those ones that really can pick up a game, pick up a building.”

Sestito, who broke the scoreless tie at 4:25 of the second period, had scored all of two goals in his entire NHL career spanning back to 2007-08. He shocked the sellout crowd when he showed some skill in beating Lindback for his first goal, but he surprised his coaches and teammates when, with the same exact move in the third period, he beat Anders Lindback for a second time to give the Flyers the lead they would need to win.

“I think he was [surprised], too, by the look on his face,” Danny Briere said. “It’s good to see. It’s good to see different guys stepping up and being a part of it. It hasn’t been easy since the start for Tom, but finally having the chance to get in the lineup and scoring two big goals like that.”

Sestito, who has worked on that particular backhand-forehand move in practice, said he’ll keep attempting it in games “’til it stops working.”

Bryzgalov, once again, put in a stellar performance. He held the Lightning scoreless for almost 50 minutes, coming up big more than a few times and remaining calm and composed as he did so. It was only just after he was shook up when Tampa Bay center Cory Conacher collided with him that he gave up the lone Lightning goal to Benoit Puliot.

But thanks to Bryz -- and the defense in front of him -- that was all the Flyers allowed. And thanks to Sestito, the Flyers were able to answer back.

“It’s great that Tom chipped in like that,” Laviolette said. “He’s a big body that goes up and down the wing. He does a lot for our club. For him to get the two goals tonight, it’s got to make him feel good and make us feel good, as well.”

The Flyers weren’t able to capitalize on either of their power-play chances, but they kept the Lightning silent on all four of their opportunities, arguably the larger task. Stifling the Bolts in both the neutral zone and their defensive zone was something the team had practiced ahead of Tueday’s game, and clearly, that work paid off.

“They’re a dangerous group out there,” Laviolette said. “I thought our guys took time and space, the defensemen did an excellent job of sticks on pucks and eliminating gaps. We did a real good job of reloading coming back to our end, we blocked a lot of shots tonight and cleaned out the front of the net.

“There was still a lot of quality chances, there’s a talented group on the other side. When we needed it, Bryz was outstanding.”

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Jonathan Bernier
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 184
Last team: Anaheim Ducks
2016-17 cap hit: $4.15 million

Scouting report
After being drafted 11th overall in 2006, Bernier was a highly-touted goaltender coming up in the Los Angeles Kings system and performed well in a backup role for five seasons in L.A.

But with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier was blocked from getting a viable opportunity to be a No. 1 with the Kings. In June 2013, they shipped him to Toronto.

Bernier did not capitalize on his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, however. He never established himself as a high-end starting goalie in three seasons despite a strong first year.

In 2013-14, Bernier was 26-19-7 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .923 save percentage with the Leafs but that save percentage continually dropped the next two years.

Toronto decided to cut ties with Bernier after the 2015-16 season and traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick. He spent last season backing up John Gibson.

Appearing in 39 games last season for the Ducks, Bernier posted a 21-7-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts.

One note about Bernier: Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was an assistant GM in Los Angeles when the Kings drafted him in 2006, so there is a connection there.

Dougherty's projection
I don’t think Bernier is the best option available for the Flyers but the most likely. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the Hextall connection here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Bernier fits what the Flyers appear to want in a goalie going forward: a short-term veteran option who can share the net with Michal Neuvirth in a platoon situation.

Hextall isn’t looking for the Flyers’ goalie of the future this summer. He believes he has that in the system already but needs to bide time for Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom.

But he will be looking for a goalie who he can trust playing around 40 games or more next season and give the team quality in net. In that role, Bernier would be a solid fit.

He hasn’t panned out as projected and we could use him as one example of why we don’t see many goaltenders drafted high in the first round. They’re tough to project.

With that said, Bernier has found success in the past, including last season in Anaheim, in either a platoon or backup situation. He’ll come at a reasonable price, too.

A tandem of Neuvirth-Bernier would not be the worst thing in the world for the Flyers; it wouldn’t be the best, either. I think it would give them enough in net to compete.

If I had to predict which goaltender on the market will be here next season, it is Bernier.

Hall's projection
I see Bernier as one of the least realistic options for the Flyers.
 
The 2006 11th overall pick hasn't quite lived up to the hype, but he still has some cachet, probably too much for the Flyers in this spot.
 
He turns only 29 in August and in a backup role last season, his 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage still ranked in the top 15 among NHL goalies that played 39 games or more.
 
The role and price in which the Flyers will offer shouldn't attract Bernier much. From the sound of Hextall, I expect him to be judicious in adding a goalie. This sounds much more like a stopgap, temporary position than anything future oriented.
 
There's a connection with the Flyers' GM here, but that might be it when it comes to the Bernier scenario.

Paone's projection
I find Bernier to be an intriguing option for the Flyers.

First and foremost, there is plenty of familiarity with Bernier within the Flyers' organization. Hextall and current Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh were both parts of the Kings' organization when Bernier was drafted in 2006 and worked with him during his development into an NHL goaltender. They not only know the type of player and competitor they'd be getting, they also know the type of person they'd be getting and that plays a role, too.

Bernier had a very strong campaign for the Ducks last season. That certainly makes him an attractive option for the Flyers. He did his best to prove he can be a reliable option again after things soured for him in Toronto. But, hey, a lot of things went sour in Toronto during those times.

But that strong campaign with Anaheim last season will have Bernier wanting opportunity and more of it. With Neuvirth entrenched here, how much opportunity would there actually be for Bernier here? Would the Flyers present the type of opportunity he's looking for after last year's showing with the Ducks? My guess is no. He'll likely want an opportunity to take on much more of a workload.

So while the option is intriguing for many reasons and it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, I ultimately feel this is an option both he and the Flyers pass on.

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

One day after extending qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents (see story), the Flyers re-signed Mark Alt, who was unrestricted.

The Phantoms' defenseman agreed to a one-year, two-way deal on Tuesday that will play him $125,000 in the AHL and $650,000 in the NHL.

The 25-year-old has played four years with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. 

He had one goal and 11 points last season in 40 AHL games.

Alt's only NHL appearance was his debut as a Flyer on March 28, 2015, at San Jose.

Alt has 68 points (12 goals) in 237 AHL games.