Originally posted on NHL Hot Stove  |  Last updated 12/11/11

 

By David Strehle
NHL Hot Stove Managing Editor

The Flyers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-2 tonight, but there should be a guarded enthusiasm that goes along with the victory. NHL leading scorer Claude Giroux and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov each left the game early with apparent injuries.

Giroux, who assisted on two second period goals, was accidentally kneed in the head by teammate Wayne Simmonds, who tried to jump over the center to avoid a collision. Giroux stayed on the ice for some time, holding his head, before skating slowly to the bench. He remained at the end of the bench until there was approimately one minute left in the middle stanza.

“Yeah, he kind of fell and he was right in front of me so I tried to jump over him,” Simmonds said after the game.  “I couldn’t really feel it, you know,  it was kind of fast. I just kept trying to go, and then I turned around and he was still on the ice there. So, obviously I was worried about him.”

Linemate Jaromir Jagr wasn’t seeing the possibly dire situation regarding Giroux.

“I think he’s going to be OK, he’s a tough guy,” Jagr said after the game. “I don’t worry about him, I think he’s going to be back.”

The 39-year-old Jagr continued.

“I don’t think he’s going to be out,” he said. “I don’t even want to think about it, but I don’t think he’s going to be out. That’s my prediction. If he is, maybe  one or two games, no more. I think maybe one or two just to be careful, hopefully. When I asked him I thought he was going to play, I didn’t know he was going to sit the third period. But, of course, you have to be careful with players like that, but I think he should be fine. Hopefully I’m not wrong.”

GM Paul Holmgren addressed the media after the game. “Claude was obviously injured late in the second period,” he said. “He was evaluated by our doctors and held out for precautionary reasons in the third period, and we’ll evaluate him tomorrow and see how he is.”

When Giroux did not return for the third period, rookie Sean Couturier skated in Giroux’s vacant spot centering Jagr and Scott Hartnell.

After the game, Peter Laviolette spoke about the job done by Couturier.

“Well right now, anything involving Claude is just speculation, but to comment on Sean’s game I thought that he did a really nice job in the third period,” the coach said of his 19-year-old rookie. “We double shifted him between that line and his line; you know young kid, lots of energy. He played extremely well, and I think that’s a real positive for our team.”

Couturier had numerous quality chances, but was robbed several times by Lightning goaltender Mathieu Garon.

“I thought young Sean stepped in and did an admirable job,” Holmgren said. “He probably could have had a hat trick during that third period.”

With both Chris Pronger (concussion-like symptoms) and Brayden Schenn (mild concussion) already out with head injuries, and defensemen Erik Gustafsson (wrist surgery) and Andreas Lilja (high ankle sprain) out for an extended period, the sick ward is filling up rapidly in Philly.

Bryzgalov may just be joining the group in the M*A*S*H unit. The club’s number one netminder left the game during a television timeout with 13:01 left in the third period, and the Flyers leading, 4-2.

“Ilya, it’s an injury issue, lower body, (it happened) during the third,” said Holmgren. “We don’t think it’s anything serious.  It’s an off-day tomorrow for the player I would assume that he will be fine for our next game.”

While there is much to be concerned with regarding the club’s injury woes, Holmgren kept things in perspective.

“It is a part of the game,” he said. “Pittsburgh played their game tonight without Letang, without Crosby, without Staal.  I mean, everybody goes through injury issues, we’re just through our share right now.”

The Game

Briere celebrates first period goal with Voracek and Meszaros. (AP Photo / Matt Slocum)

The game, itself, was a typical contest for the Orange-and-Black lately. They got off to an extremely slow start in the first period, falling behind on a Ryan Shannon goal, then came out like gang-busters to commence the second. Simmonds made a nice play at center ice to create a turnover that led to a two-on-rush with Danny Briere the other way. Briere finished off the sequence, beating Mathieu Garon top shelf for his ninth goal of the season to tie the game at 1-1.

Just 34 seconds later, Hartnell sent a pass over to Giroux, who hit Jagr. The Czech superstar ripped a one-timer high over Garon’s glove for his 10th of the year to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead. It was also the 656th of his career, tying him for 11th place on the NHL’s all-time leading goal scoring list with Brendan Shanahan.

With just over five minutes left in the middle frame, Simmonds would strike for one of his own with Vincent Lecavalier in the sin bin. After taking a pass from Giroux to the right of Garon, Simmonds attempted a hard backhand pass out in front. The puck hit off of defenseman Brett Clark’s skate and caromed past his goaltender and into the net for a 3-1 Philadelphia lead heading into the third period. After a recent nine-game goalless drought, it was the second in three games for Simmonds, and seventh of the season.

“Yeah, you know he (Simmonds) doesn’t play in an easy area,” Laviolette said. “It usually comes with a cross-check and a punch to the head, and you’ve got to be willing to take that. So you have to give him credit for standing in the tough areas, but he was able handle the pass, bring it to the net.”

Laviolette said the Simmonds goal is a designed play. Well, sort of.

“We’ve actually been working on that play, not necessarily to bank it off the defenseman’s skate, but you know when you bring pucks to the net, good things happen and he got the reward of that.”

Lecavalier would tally a power play goal of his own — his 11th this year — just 55 seconds into the third, but Matt Carle answered with a man advantage goal, his fourth goal of the year, four minutes later to restore the two-goal lead for the Flyers.

Hartnell iced the game with 28 seconds remaining in regulation, hitting the empty net with Garon pulled or an extra attacker. Jagr had a chance to pass Shanahan on the list, but instead hit Hartnell.

Most importantly with the win — their fifth consecutive, by the way — Philadelphia stayed one point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference leads.

 

If you have any comments or questions, you can email the author at dstrehle@nhlhotstove.com.  You can also follow him on Twitter – @David_Strehle


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