Jaromir Jagr has a solution for Philadelphia's rut of slow starts. Put backup goalie Sergei Bobrovsky in the net for the first few shots, then turn the game over to Ilya Bryzgalov. "I had a good idea," Jagr said. "But nobody listened to me. It's time to do it."
The Flyers won't try anything that radical, but again they needed to rally after another early hole. Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds scored shootout goals to give the Flyers a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night. Claude Giroux scored his 27th goal for the Flyers, and Alex Ovechkin had his 33rd for the Capitals. Bryzgalov is the hottest goalie in the NHL -- at least, once he stops a few shots. The Flyers have allowed the first goal 15 times in the last 20 games. Ovechkin tagged Bryzgalov for a goal on the first shot, only 26 seconds into the game.
"It's bad luck for us," said Jagr, who had his 30th assist. "We had a stretch where every first shot went in." At least the Flyers have enough talent to come back. Read scored on the first shot of the shootout against Braden Holtby, and Matt Hendricks beat Bryzgalov on Washington's first attempt. Giroux and Ovechkin were both denied and another round came up empty for both teams. Simmonds scored, and Bryzgalov stuffed Troy Brouwer to preserve the win. Bryzgalov stopped 30 shots and improved to 9-1-1 with a 1.23 goals-against average in March.
"Bryz has done a tremendous job for us, and shootouts have been a part of that," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "There's a tremendous amount of confidence right now in our goaltender. In the shootout tonight, that showed." Capitals forward Alexander Semin sat out because of an undisclosed injury. The Capitals did pick up a point and have 81, putting them one ahead of Buffalo for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals hold the tiebreaker with Buffalo.
"Tonight, they played a desperate, hard-fought hockey game," Laviolette said. "They played like they needed these two points, and fought us to the end. That team is moving in the right direction." Ovechkin scored his 33rd goal of the season, topping last season's total. Ovechkin's first shot was poked by Bryzgalov straight back to the Washington star and he pounded in the puck for the lead. Ovechkin, who has six goals in his last five games, thumped his chest twice in celebration.
The Flyers trailed 2-0 in each of the last three games, but tied it this on one Giroux's goal. Giroux streaked down the ice on a breakaway and was surprised when Holtby strayed way out for the pokecheck. Giroux slipped around him and had nothing but an empty net in from him for the uncontested goal, one of his easiest of the season. It was Holtby's lone mistake, as he stopped 27 shots before the shootout. Holtby blamed himself for the loss. "It was terrible," he said. "Those two goals aren't even good goals for those players to score. Those shouldn't go in. The shootout, we should have won 1-0."
The Capitals had their chance to go up in the second period when defenceman Matt Carle tripped Marcus Johansson on the breakaway for a penalty shot. Johansson tripped up as he neared the net and the puck slid away from him. The Captials would lament those missed chances after the shootout. "After the second period, I felt we dominated them and we had more opportunities to score goals," Ovechkin said. The Flyers played beyond regulation for the third time in the last four games and remained four points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers hold a five-point lead over New Jersey for fifth place. -- (AP)