Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 30 of 31 shots on goal through overtime, then made saves on another three of four shooters in the shootout to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The contest marked the sixth time this month that the red-hot goaltender has been named the No. 1 star of the game. He now has a 9-1-1 record, a 1.27 goals-against average, and a .956 save percentage in the month of March. The win improved his record to 31-14-7 for the season.
After Matt Read scored on Braden Holtby on the first shot of the shootout, Matt Hendricks deked Bryzgalov to the ice and easily maneuvered around the netminder to score and tie the shootout after one round. But that would be the last time that Bryzgalov would be beaten, as he stopped Alex Ovechkin, Keith Aucoin, and Troy Brouwer in succession.
Bryzgalov received the goal that he needed from Wayne Simmonds in round five, and the goalie snuffed out Brouwer's chance with his left pad to secure the extra point for the Flyers.
Flyers' head coach Peter Laviolette explained the affect Bryzgalov's excellent play is having on his team.
"I think Bryz has done a tremendous job for us and I think shootouts is a part of it," he said of his netminder. "It goes back to that Calgary game (February 25), I don't know how long ago that was, 40 days or so, and he came up and we got big points out of there, and from there he seemed to really catch fire. I think there is a tremendous amount of confidence right now in our goaltender.
It was yet another game in which Philadelphia yielded the first goal and would have to come back in order to pick up points. They have now allowed the opposition to score the first goal of a contest in 15 of the last 20 games, but still have managed a 12-7-1 record over that stretch.
Washington would net an early marker in the game's first half minute. Ovechkin picked up a loose puck that Ilya Bryzgalov had poked to the right of his crease, and the Washington captain skated to the slot and roofed a shot past the goaltender at the 26 second mark for his 33rd goal of the season and a 1-0 lead for the visitors.
After the Caps hit a goal post at one end, the Flyers would tie the game early in the middle frame. Jaromir Jagr retrieved the puck and sent a long lead pass that Claude Giroux caught up to at center ice, and pulled away for a breakaway. As Giroux moved in on Holtby, the netminder tried a desperation poke check, but the shifty center held the puck and moved around the goalie's stick and put a shot into the empty net for his 27th goal of the year at 6:05 of the second period to tie the score at 1-1.
"Yeah, he came out and kind of surprised me and I was able to do a little toe drag around him had an open net," Giroux said of his goal. "Those are pretty fun."
The Capitals had a golden opportunity to take the lead back again just past the midway point of regulation time when Marcus Johansson was tripped from behind by Matt Carle while on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot. But Bryzgalov gave the Swede nothing to shoot at, and Johansson tripped over the goaltender's stick and the puck slid harmlessly to the left wing corner.
The goaltenders would not allow another goal through the third period or overtime, setting up the dramatics in the shootout. Holtby finished the night with 27 stops on 28 shots in suffering the defeat, dropping his record to 1-1-1.