Martin St. Louis scored a goal and added an assist and netminder Dwayne Roloson turned aside 35 shots to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The triumph was the third in a row for the Lightning and kept their fading postseason hopes alive for the moment, while Philadelphia missed out on a chance to move to within two points of fourth place.
After Philadelphia dominated territorial play in the early going, outshooting Tampa by a 5-0 count, it was a center ice turnover that would prove costly at the tail end of a power play. With Brett Connolly in the penalty box for tripping, Danny Briere attempted to stick-handle through Trevor Smith as the last man back. Smith took the puck away and fed Ryan Malone, who went in alone on Bryzgalov and beat him high to the blocker side and under the crossbar for the shorthanded tally.
Malone's 15th goal of the season gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead at 8:08, and continued a trend for the Flyers. It was another game in which they yielded a goal on the opposition's first shot, and was the 16th time in the last 22 contests in which they allowed their opponent to score the first goal of the game.
Briere took an interference minor with six seconds remaining in the period and, just when it appeared the Bolts would open the second frame with a man advantage, Steven Stamkos struck with a laser that blew past Bryzgalov with just 1.4 seconds left on the clock for his 53rd of the season, and staked the visitors to a 2-0 lead at the first intermission.
Despite outshooting the Bolts by a 10-7 count in the opening stanza, it was a generally sloppy period for a team that entered the evening four points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for fourth place and the New York Rangers by five points for the Eastern Conference lead.
The second period would prove to be all Philly, as the Flyers kept Tampa Bay pinned in their own zone for long stretches of playing time.
Some early pressure proved fruitful, as Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn teamed up on a beautiful passing play with Simmonds finishing off the play in front of Roloson for his 23rd goal of the year at 3:21 to bring Philadelphia back to within 2-1.
Though the shot totals were lopsided in the Flyers' favor -- 14-1 at one point, Roloson continued to protect the lead.
But late zone puck possession would pay off for the Orange-and-Black, as Jakub Voracek controlled along the blue line before hitting Kimmo Timonen at the right hash marks. The slick Finnish defenseman sent a backhand pass across the front of the crease to Matt Read at the far side, and the rookie finished it off with a diving shot into the open side for his 22nd of the year at 18:18 to knot the score at 2-2.
The third period would be much like the first for Philly, as they would squander opportunities of their own, and basically hand goals to the Lightning on a silver platter.
The first came early on, as St. Louis was left all alone to set off on a breakaway, and he beat Bryzgalov under the bar over top of the netminder's blocker side for his 24th goal of the season at 2:27 to restore Tampa's lead at 3-2.
Bryzgalov's streak of 11 consecutive games in which he had allowed two goals or fewer came to an abrupt end with the St. Louis tally.
Philadelphia did not mount the type of offensive attack early in the third that they had in the first two sessions, but began to pour rubber at Roloson as the period wore on. Shots were 3-3 past the midway point of the stanza, but would end 12-6 in the Flyers' favor.
But it would be a monumental mistake that put the home squad behind the eight ball late in regulation time.
Matt Carle accepted the puck as he was about to skate behind his own net and quickly surveyed the Bolts' forecheckers and defensive coverage. He appeared to take his eye off the puck briefly, which trickled off his stick and out to the side of the goal to Bryzgalov's right, where JT Wyman took the bow off the gift and tucked it past the goaltender before he even knew what had occurred. It was Wyman's second of the season, and he likely will never score another one as easily as that ever again, vaulting Tampa Bay to a two-goal lead at 4-2 with just 2:49 remaining in regulation.
"I don't know, I'd have to watch the replay but I don't think I want to," Carle said when asked what happened on the miscue. "So it's kind of a give and go with Kimmo, and I lost handle of it and it popped out in the front and Bryz didn't see it.
The defenseman took full responsibility and offered the following.
"It's just one of those things where I think the sooner I put it behind me, the better off I'll be," he said. "Obviously it's gut-wrenching to have that happen, and I just want to apologize to my teammates and all the fans and everybody that paid a ticket to come to the game tonight. So it's hard to swallow right now, especially in a playoff race and where we are in the standings right now. Those are a huge two points that we needed."
The gaffe turned out to be even more devastating as the Flyers would strike with Bryzgalov pulled for an extra attacker and Smith in the sin bin, Scott Hartnell took a pass from Briere and ripped a slap shot through Roloson from the left circle for his 36th goal of the season. It was also the left winger's NHL-leading 16th goal of the year, and drew Philly to within 4-3.
After pulling Bryzgalov again and getting another couple of excellent scoring opportunities, Tom Pyatt put the final nail in the coffin by hitting the empty cage for his 12th of the year, and setting the final score of 5-3.
In the end, it was just a case of Philadelphia making enough big mistakes to cost them the game, and Tampa being opportunistic by making them pay by putting the puck in the net.