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Flyers earn home-and-home split with Devils

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- Ilya Bryzgalov threw down the gauntlet early in the week, then lay down to help preserve the Flyers' victory Friday.

Bryzgalov stopped 27 shots in regulation and overtime and two more in the shootout as the Philadelphia Flyers earned a split of their home-and-home series against the New Jersey Devils with a 2-1 shootout win.

Matt Read and Claude Giroux scored in the shootout, and Maxime Talbot had the goal in regulation for Philadelphia.

In the post-overtime tiebreaker, Bryzgalov allowed Ilya Kovalchuk's goal, then stopped David Clarkson and Patrik Elias to secure the Flyers' first shootout win in more than a year (March 10, 2012).

Clarkson had the Devils' goal. Johan Hedberg made 21 saves.

Bryzgalov said Tuesday the Flyers would be "done" if they lost both games to New Jersey, and after a 5-2 loss Wednesday at Prudential Center, that was the situation facing Philadelphia.

Bryzgalov stepped up his game Friday, backstopping a penalty-killing unit that denied all four Devils power-play chances, including one that carried through the final 1:42 of regulation and first 18 seconds of overtime.

He was even better later in overtime, making three sensational saves on a New Jersey flurry with 1:52 left. He stopped Elias twice on the doorstep, then after Marek Zidlicky pulled the puck from between Bryzgalov's skates, the Philadelphia netminder fell on his back and got his toe on Zidlicky's shot. When it fluttered down next to his arm, he was able to trap it against his body.

Just as important were the four saves he made during a New Jersey power play midway through the first period with the game scoreless. Dual penalties to Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek put the Flyers down a man for 18 seconds, then down two men for 1:42.

"I think the [turning point] of the game was that 5-on-3 early in the game," Flyers forward Danny Briere said. "Being able to kill that was huge."

The Devils felt the same way.

"You have to give Bryzgalov credit, he made some big saves at key times," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We needed a power-play goal. We had a 5-on-3 and a chance at the end. We have to cash in there to get two points."

Moments after the big kill, the Flyers got a big goal from Talbot, who scored his third of the season at 15:21 of the first period.

Talbot led a rush up the ice, dished the puck over to Matt Read and skated to the net. Read sent a pass across the New Jersey zone to Simon Gagne, who skated through the slot and found an open passing lane when Devils defenseman Andy Greene collided with Talbot and fell into Hedberg, taking them both out of the play. Gagne got the puck to Talbot on the right post, where he stopped it with his skate and scored into an empty net.

"We had a 3-on-2 and [Read] made a great play to [Gagne]," Talbot said. "[Gagne] took the goalie with him and gave the puck to me back door and I shot it and put it in."

Clarkson tied the game at 6:09 of the second period. Bryce Salvador fired a shot from the left point that Clarkson, posting up Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn in the slot, tipped past Bryzgalov for his 11th goal of the season, snapping a 13-game goal drought. After scoring nine times in his first 12 games, it was Clarkson's second in 16.

"Obviously with everybody being all over me about the scoring drought, it's nice," Clarkson said. "But at the end of the day … it doesn't matter if I'm scoring, if he's scoring. It doesn't matter to me. It definitely feels good and I've got to continue now to keep going and keep putting the puck on net."

The Devils kept firing, but the Flyers -- and Bryzgalov -- kept getting in the way. In addition to Bryzgalov's saves, Philadelphia blocked 16 shots, led by three each for Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros. Not to mention a penalty-killing unit that held New Jersey to six shots with the extra man.

"The penalty kill was very good," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "When you have to do it for two minutes, that's a long time on the 5-on-3 and they have some big guns out there. It was a really nice job. Even more to the point was in the third period when our team needs to win a hockey game and they find themselves down and really did a good job eliminating chances at the end of the game on the penalty kill."

Despite falling in the shootout, the Devils were able to take some positives out of their performance heading into their home game Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens.

"I think what's important is the way we played," Salvador said. "I think we played well and we fought back and tied it up and got the point, and just fell short in the shootout. It's kind of frustrating having the game decided in the shootout, but that happens. I like the way our team played and we competed, so it's going to be important to bring that effort [Saturday]."

Though no one in the Flyers locker room really believed their season would be "done" if they had lost Friday, it would have made their hole awfully deep. The Flyers remain 11th in the Eastern Conference, three points behind the eighth-place Winnipeg Jets.

"Tonight is a big win, but Tampa [Bay] on Monday is going to be as big of a game," Talbot said.

Briere said, "I think from this point on for us they are only going to be must-win. Sadly we've put ourselves in a tough spot. There's no other way around it. We're not going to be allowed to drop too many games from here going out. … We've got to move forward. We can't worry about what happened last week. It's in the past. We have to look forward and try to win as many games and [Friday] was definitely a big win for us."


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