Flyers Catch A Predator

Photo Courtesy of AP

By Charlie O’Connor (@THG_Charlie)

Tight checking, opportunistic goal-scoring, stellar goaltending.

After signing Ilya Bryzgalov and anointing him the presumptive franchise netminder, this was the type of game that the Philadelphia Flyers were expected to play, and win, on a regular basis.

Coming out of the all-star break, they may have finally discovered the secret to their intended script.

Led by two goals from Wayne Simmonds and a calm and confident performance from goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, the Flyers used all the weapons in their arsenal to defeat the Nashville Predators 4-1 tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.

Coach Peter Laviolette was more than satisfied with his team’s performance.

“I liked the way we played the game. It seemed like we had lots of chances to score, and yet the game was tight. [Nashville] is a talented team; they work hard, they have skill, they’ve won a lot of games on the road, and they’re on a little bit of a roll. But I thought our guys from start to finish were pretty focused and did a good job on the ice.”

Laviolette confirmed that he had placed a greater emphasis on physical play tonight, noting the return of Zac Rinaldo to the lineup and the aggressive efforts of fellow rookies Tom Sestito and Brayden Schenn. The Flyers outhit the Predators 30-19.

“I thought that we came out banging. [Rinaldo] was back in the lineup, that was good, that’s what he’s capable of bringing. [Sestito] was in there banging, and Schenn had a physical game. In order to hit, you have to skate. And when you’re skating, and you hit, usually you’re near the puck, and that creates turnovers, and ultimately offense.”

Wayne Simmonds opened the scoring for the Flyers in the first period, warding off all-star defenseman Ryan Suter and wristing a turnaround shot past a surprised Lindback, who was screened on the play by Rinaldo. He would later add a power play tally in the third period for his 15th goal of the season.

Laviolette raved about the 23-year old forward’s play.

“Right now, [Simmonds] is a very difficult person to get the puck from. He hangs on to that puck and he’s able to make plays. I think he’s got a lot of confidence, he’s playing extremely well for us right now.

Matt Read would extend the Flyers’ lead midway through the second period. Read pickpocketed Nashville defenseman Kevin Klein and streaked down the ice immediately following a Predators power play, beating Lindback through the five-hole to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead.

“The goalie was out pretty far, and I just tried to surprise him and shoot it five-hole,” said Read. “I wasn’t really looking at the net, I knew where it was and I knew where he was, and I was just looking like I would pass it. I don’t think he was ready for it.”

The Predators would close the gap at the 8:37 mark of the third period, with Ryan Suter’s 6th goal of the year. But Ilya Bryzgalov would slam the door shut the rest of the game. Bryzgalov stopped 26 of 27 Nashville shots, on the heels of his solid performance against Winnipeg on Tuesday.

“Even before the all-star break, I thought he was playing very well,” Matt Read said. “Tonight, again, he made a lot of big saves.”

Coach Peter Laviolette attributed Bryzgalov’s strong play to hard work during the week.

“[Bryz] looks really sharp to me. He seems focused in there, he’s working hard in practice. His practices have been solid. I think that often times, your practices reflect your games, and your games reflect your practices. What you do on a day-to-day basis, you take that into the game. He’s been sharp in practice, and I think it’s followed through into the game.

Claude Giroux closed out the scoring with an empty net goal, his first goal since the Winter Classic. Jaromir Jagr, skating towards a wide open net, passed up a sure goal to gift wrap Giroux’s 19th of the season. Laviolette was noticeably impressed by Jagr’s gesture.

“You’ve heard Jaromir talk about that before, about doing what he can to help [Giroux] in many different ways, off the ice and on the ice. I think you see that a lot, though, on teams that are good teams.”

With the victory, the Flyers moved to 30-14-6 on the season, three points behind the Atlantic Division-leading New York Rangers. They face off against the rival New Jersey Devils on Saturday afternoon at 1PM at the Wells Fargo Center.

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