View from Philadephia: Bryzgalov stole another one
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If you're looking here for some explanation of the how and why of Game 2 Friday night at Consol Energy Center, sorry to disappoint.
This was hockey through the looking-glass, a relentless stream of brilliant shots, clever passes, body blows, spectacular saves and wild momentum swings. It was a game that defied logic and helped define this series as a burgeoning classic.
Surely the Flyers can't keep falling behind by two or three goals and expecting to come back. And yet they do.
Surely a goalie who gives up a goal 15 seconds into the game, and five overall, didn't have a great night. And yet Ilya Bryzgalov truly stole this game for his teammates, an 8-5 victory and 2-0 lead in this Eastern Conference first-round series.
What are the Penguins supposed to do? Try not to score early? Try not to take the lead? How does a team recover from blowing two big leads, on their home ice, to start a playoff series? The answer is, it doesn't. This series belongs to the Flyers.
Considering the avalanche that followed, it is easy to overlook the first tumbling rock. But it was a doozy. The moment the puck was dropped, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette ordered a line change. With his guys rushing off the ice, Sidney Crosby and Steve Sullivan skated freely into the neutral zone. They passed the puck back and forth as if there were some cones set up for a drill, then Crosby cranked a shot past Bryzgalov.
It was a stunning mistake. The Flyers needed to improve on their slow starts and Laviolette all but handed the Penguins an instant goal. Before the period was half over, it was 2-0. The Penguins seemed to be skating twice as fast and hitting the Flyers three times as hard. They desperately needed to win this game, and it showed. The Flyers already had at least a split on the road in their pocket, and that showed, too.
Then Kris Letang, the Penguins' splendid defenseman, whipped a shot destined to make it 3-0. And Bryzgalov's fast-twitch glove snapped. The NHL office had to review it to be sure the glove, and therefore the puck, hadn't been over the goal line. Or maybe the guys in the NHL office just had to see it again to believe it.
It was the best of a bunch of athletic, acrobatic saves made by the Russian Bear. It changed everything.
Within moments, Max Talbot scored a short-handed goal that really sparked the avalanche. It was like a hockey game of H-O-R-S-E, with each team trying to score a more incredible, creative goal. Claude Giroux finally tied it at 3-3 on another short-handed goal. Chris Kunitz scored six seconds later.
Bryzgalov skated toward the sideboards and slammed his stick in disgust. At whom? Himself for failing to control the rebound on James Neal's original shot? Or his defense? In this case, Braydon Cobourn let Kunitz sail right on by him and flick the puck into an empty net.
When the Flyers finally took the lead in the third period, the intensity level cranked up several more notches. The Penguins' desperation was palpable.
Bryzgalov was fantastic. This was what the Flyers were doing when they signed him to that zillion-dollar contract in the summer.
The Flyers are in control of this series. In the most improbable ways imaginable, they have stolen not one, but two games, from the talented and experienced Penguins.
Best of all, after this game, they will take the ice with the confidence that only comes from having a goaltender capable of winning it all.
First Published April 14, 2012 12:08 am