Better With Popcorn

Flyers fall in goaltender duel

It was something fans of the Philadelphia Flyers hadn’t seen all season.

Following the team’s 1-0 shootout loss to the New York Islanders, the team dropped their third consecutive game for the first time all year.

However, that wasn’t the only first of the night.

Considering how inconsistent Philadelphia’s goaltending has been this season, instances where the team’s net minder has stood on his head have been few and far between.

On Tuesday night, that wasn’t the case.

Prior to the two-round shootout that saw both Frans Nielson and John Tavares ice the game for the Islanders, the 65-minutes that led up to the glorified skills competition was an unabashed goaltender duel.

With Ilya Bryzgalov making his fourth start in five games for the Flyers and Evgeni Nabokov backing the Islanders, the game proved to be a battle between two Russian net minders.

In reality, they were more like brick walls.

Stopping shot after shot, the two men guarded their nets flawlessly as both teams continually tried to ripple the twine.

Bryzgalov turned away several difficult shots, none larger than one of the Islanders first attempts of the game that came on a 2-on-1 rush early in the first period.

The save displayed his ability to move laterally side-to-side and ultimately proved to be a key moment in the game.

In a twist of irony, although the Flyers lost the game, Bryzgalov still registered a shutout because he held the team scoreless for all 65-minutes of play.

It’s only the team’s second shutout over the last two seasons.

At the other end of the ice, Nabokov managed to put together one of the most impressive performances in recent memory.

Turning away all 45 shots the Flyers threw his way as well as their two attempts in the shootout, the 36-year old goaltender was an impenetrable force that smothered every puck.

In the second period, Nabokov’s star shinned brightest.

The first instance came when he robbed Jaromir Jagr of a sure goal with a magnificent glove save. The play was magnified by the fact that Scott Hartnell was camped in front and seemingly blocked the goaltender’s vision.

The next instance came during an Islanders power play when Nabokov laid out to deny Max Talbot of a shorthanded opportunity.

“We just couldn't get it past the goaltender,” Peter Laviolette said. “He played a good game."

He has now registered wins in six of his last seven and has held opponents to one goal or less in five of the games, two of which were shutouts.

In terms of the Flyers offense, they had some bright spots themselves.

They moved the puck fairly well and generated several scoring chances.

While some were quick to criticize Peter Laviolette’s decision to put Sean Couturier on a line with Tom Sestito and Zac Rinaldo, the trio proved to be one of the team’s strongest units spending much of their time in the offensive zone.

Jakub Voracek along with his line mates Matt Read and Max Talbot also put together a strong effort.

Ultimately, it wasn’t enough.

While the night wasn’t their worst performance of the season (in fact they played fairly well), the reality still remains that the Flyers lost another game, against another division opponent as the result of yet another shootout.

With only one win in the five games since returning from the All-Star break, the Flyers find themselves staring down a relentless schedule with three unforgiving opponents just over the horizon.

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