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Bryzgalov, Flyers blank Devils

by Dave Lozo
NEWARK, N.J. -- It's only been two games, but Flyers GM Paul Holmgren already looks like he knew what he was doing when he gave his team an extreme makeover this summer.

After defeating the defending-champion Boston Bruins on Thursday night, the Flyers put on another hockey clinic Saturday, silencing the New Jersey Devils 3-0 with a mix of suffocating defense and offensive balance at Prudential Center.

Claude Giroux, Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds -- members of three separate lines -- scored for the Flyers, who made life easy for goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov's 20-save shutout. The Devils entered the third period down a goal, but they never mustered a consistent attack to threaten the Flyers' stranglehold on the game.

Bryzgalov's unselfish sentiment following the Flyers first shutout since the 2009-10 season seems to be permeating throughout the rebuilt locker room.

"I'm not looking back and thinking about my contract," said Bryzgalov, referring to the nine-year, $51 million deal he signed this summer and the expectations to perform that come with it. "I just want to give the team a chance to win the game. That's it. I don't care about the rest of the stuff. I don't worry about the stats. When we win the games, I'm so excited."

Two games into a new era without Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, and the Flyers are looking like a better, more complete team. Richards and Carter averaged about 19 minutes per game last season and routinely saw their time on ice creep above the 20-minute mark.

That hasn't been the case with the Flyers forwards over this season's first two games.

Playing time among the forwards has been distributed almost evenly over the top three lines, with the fourth line playing well and earning its share of shifts. Jaromir Jagr, a future Hall-of-Famer who could demand more playing time, played just 14:11 against the Devils. He was the Flyers' sixth-most taxed forward in terms of ice time and played 1:43 less than Read, a rookie in just his second NHL game.

That may have been a problem in the past with the Flyers, but Jagr couldn't care less about padding his already incredible career numbers.

"I have no problem with that," Jagr said. "I think the key is five guys working together. Everyone knows what to do. It's not three guys offense, two guys defense. It's very tough to play that way, but you can have success."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette loves Jagr's attitude almost as much as he loves being able to roll four lines that are playing well and lack individuals who care about getting their minutes.

"This is a bit of an adjustment period for us," Laviolette said. "So we're going to have to try to figure this out because I'm sure some guys want to play 20 minutes. But when you have four lines you can roll over and out on the ice, we're going to have to figure out how we're managing it. I like the way our team played with our balance and our lines and our attack.

"(Jagr's) done a great job of fitting in and he's been a factor in the games. The most important thing is we're winning hockey games."

Laviolette said there are no egos that need massaging on this year's team.

"It's not like we have one or two guys who are playing 23 minutes," he said. "I think you'll see everybody clumped in together. That's not really the objective here. The objective is to win hockey games."

Giroux has shown right away he can handle the added scoring responsibility. After getting his first of the season in the opener, he buried his second goal of 2011-12 midway through the first period. Linemate James van Riemsdyk, another Flyer who will need to contribute more this season, teed up Giroux in the slot for a one-timer that beat goaltender Martin Brodeur to the stick side.

The teams came up empty over the next 30 minutes, with Brodeur stopping breakaway chances from Andreas Nodl and Sean Couturier. But the Flyers' relentless attack put the game away early in the third period.

Read, a product of Bemidji State University, ripped a quick wrister that slipped between the blocker arm and body of Brodeur to make it 2-0 Flyers at 2:41 of the final period. Simmonds put the game away 2:09 later with a hard-fought goal from in tight just as a Flyers power play expired.

The 25-year-old Read admitted it was special to get his first career goal against Brodeur, but also said he got a little lucky in terms of his shot placement.

"You know what? I was hoping he was going down," Read said. "So I was aiming to go high blocker there, but he's a hybrid goalie. I was hoping he was going down and I just got lucky and it sneaked through there."

Defenseman Chris Pronger, who succeeded Richards as team captain, said there was no miracle cure to the team chemistry and no team-bonding exercises where players got to know one another. He said all the bonding has been taking place on the ice and it's been a result of hard work and everyone pulling in the same direction.

"We had a real good training camp and a lot of the line combinations that were out on the ice today were in practice and in the exhibition games to get some chemistry," Pronger said. "We worked on a lot of the things to feel out one another and go through that process. We did a lot X's and O's, walking new guys up to speed with us guys who have been around here. Guys got up to speed to really quick and you're seeing the beginnings of what we can do."

According to Laviolette, things are better off the ice as well.

"The room's been good. It's been really good from Day 1 it seems," Laviolette said. "There's still a long way to go with developing that chemistry and that camaraderie. But I think the game itself on the ice was more than I was looking for. I thought we did a good job taking the next step."

As for the Devils, they looked a lot like the team that got off to the horrible start a season ago that led to them missing the playoffs. They had trouble creating chances and getting the puck out of their zone and were only in the game in the third period due to Brodeur's sharp play during the first two periods.

New coach Peter DeBoer said his team will practice Sunday to work out the problems that plagued them against the Flyers.

"This League doesn't let you feel sorry for yourself at all," DeBoer said. "You have to pick yourself up and get back it. The best way I can describe it is we were at practice speed and they were at game speed and we never caught up tonight."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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