By David Strehle
NHL Hot Stove Managing Editor
It’s safe to say that Sergei Bobrovsky saved the Philadelphia Flyers from serving up a great big turkey on the eve of Thanksgiving Day here in the States.
Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov had another rough outing, yielding three Islander goals on nine first period shots. This is a New York team that hadn’t scored a single goal over their last two contests, seeing their streak of goal-scoring futility climb over 140 minutes entering tonight’s game.
That didn’t seem to matter for a Philly team that has had trouble stopping any teams from scoring lately.
After Andrej Meszaros blasted a left point shot past Rick DiPietro on the rush just 18 ticks into the tilt to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead, it took the Isles just 19 more seconds to tie the game up. The much-maligned Kyle Okposo – the owner of exactly zero goals and three assists, while accumulating a -7 rating in 15 games this season – tallied his first goal of the year at the 37 second mark.
The 1-1 score just 37 seconds into the game marked the quickest point in any contest in Flyers history to see that score. The goals also tied another NHL record, as both teams scored on their first shots of the game.
Okposo beat Bryzgalov again for good measure on a power play midway through the first, and Michael Grabner – mired in in a five-game goal drought of his own – snapped an unscreened wrist shot past Bryzgalov to the far side from the right circle late in the opening frame.
Unfortunately, Bryzgalov appears to have wandered back into the woods again and cannot find his way out. As pointed out by The Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi on Twitter, Bryz has not played well since Peter Laviolette’s decision to sit him for the game in Winnipeg last Saturday. When he returned to the crease Monday night, he was not sharp in a 4-2 home defeat at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes.
After stopping just six of nine Islanders shots tonight, it was no surprise to see Bobrovsky between the pipes to start the second.
Bobrovsky held the fort over the last 40 minutes, turning aside all 20 New York shots while the team mounted a comeback. Scott Hartnell picked the top corner from in close, which was no easy task given how tight he was in on DiPietro, bringing Philadelphia back to within a goal at 3-2 heading into the third stanza.
Danny Briere, who had not scored in the last four games and had netted just one in his previous eight, would provide the late game goal-scoring heroics for the Flyers on this night.
With just over five minutes left in regulation, Briere skated down the right wing through center ice and sent what appeared to be a harmless dump in into the offensive right wing corner. The puck caromed off a bad spot in the glass and ricocheted out in front where DiPietro attempted to glove the puck. Instead, it flipped out of the mitt and right to Briere just to the left of the Isles’ cage. Briere made no mistake, roofing a shot over the netminder and just under the cross bar to knot the score at 3-3.
For Philadelphia, it had to be a much-welcomed sight to see a bad bounce go their way, as they have had more than their share go against them in the season’s first quarter.
As the remainder of regulation was not enough to settle the tie, Bobrovsky and Briere would once again combine on the game-winning sequence in overtime.
A hooking minor to Hartnell just 21 seconds into the extra period led to an elongated stretch of time in the Flyers zone for New York. An Islander flurry saw Bobrovsky have to come up with three absolutely huge stops, two on Grabner and the other on Andrew MacDonald. As is the case many times during the year after a big save at one end, the rush the other way would prove to be the difference-maker.
Briere took a feed from Hartnell, who had just exited the penalty box, and entered the Isles zone with speed. He rifled a laser of a wrist shot that eluded DiPietro, making the comeback complete for the 4-3 victory.
It was a gigantic two points gained for the Flyers, as they picked up a point on the Pittsburgh Penguins, who lost in overtime to the St. Louis Blues. With the return of Sidney Crosby, it is imperative that Philadelphia not bury themselves early if they hope to remain in the race for the Atlantic Division title.
And the Flyers had two players that stood out in the win – Bobrovsky in an incredible effort, and Briere, who not only brought the team back, but won the game.
With the triumph, the Flyers ensured that the only turkey that would be served up in the next couple of days would be tomorrow would be where it belonged – at the dinner table.
From everyone here at NHL Hot Stove, we wish all of our friends the happiest of holidays. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
If you have any comments or questions, you can email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter – @David_Strehle
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