On a night where Chris Pronger and the Flyers’ defense attempted to throw the Lightning off their game, it was Tampa Bay who had the last laugh as they beat Philly, 2-1, in overtime.
Marc-Andre Bergeron tied the game in the middle of the third period setting up Brett Connolly’s game-winner exactly halfway through OT. Dwayne Roloson had 14 saves tonight in the win, while Ilya Bryzgalov posted 22 saves in a what turned out to be a game played like a stalemate between two warring generals.
Pronger returned after an absence of just over 2 weeks, and in the first period, he was part of a gameplan which effectively tried to neutralize all offensive potential. The Lightning outshot the Flyers 7-6, but it was the Flyers defense corps which controlled the action, testing the Lightning’s dedication to their notorious 1-3-1 system.
Multiple times in the first period, Braydon Coburn, Pronger and the rest of the back line decided to hold the puck in their defensive zone in attempt to force a Lightning player to make a move and break up their center-ice choking scheme.
Since no Tampa Bay player took the bait, the Philly defender with the puck simply moved the disc around their zone, effectively halting the flow and speed of the game. Neither team gave way to the other’s plan leading to a lot of puck possession for Pronger and a chorus of boos from the Lightning fan base.
Although they stayed disciplined in their scheme, the Lightning became undisciplined in their play allowing the Flyers to capitalize on one of their power plays early in the second period.
Scoring on their third power-play opportunity within the first ten minutes of the second, the Flyers took the early leead. Redirecting a slapshot that Jakub Voracek let go of from the point, Scott Hartnell tipped in his sixth goal of the season to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead halfway through the game.
Shortly after the Flyers’ first goal, the Lightning had to start forechecking the Flyers in their own zone since Philly now held the power to waste away the remaining time.
Mimicking the Lightning’s lapse in discipline, Pronger took two penalties of his own nearing the end of the second period. Just exiting the penalty box 26 seconds earlier from his slashing minor, Pronger re-entered the sin bin for high-sticking Vincent Lecavalier in front of Ilya Bryzgalov. The Lightning didn’t register a goal on either opportunity as the score remained 1-0 Philly entering the third period.
With Voracek in the box for a questionable tripping call, Bergeron ripped home the game-tying goal with 12:19 left in regulation — a shot which caught Bryzgalov leaning towards the near post but sailed home inside the far pipe.
Despite several painfully close scoring chances to end the game, the Flyers couldn’t find the back of the net as the game entered overtime. The Flyers’ best chance came with a Hartnell slapshot from the slot with only a minute left in regulation. Roloson gloved the puck at the top of the crease to deny the opportunity.
Despite providing the majority of scoring chances in overtime, the Flyers found themselves on the wrong side of an overtime outcome.
Powering down the right wing while holding off a defender, Dominic Moore managed to throw a weak backhander on Bryzgalov resulting in a rebound opportunity. Brett Connolly, who was uncovered despite Andrej Meszaros being within striking distance, slammed home the rebound to give the Lightning the 2-1 win.
The waiting game, caused by the Flyers unwillingness to fall victim to Tampa’s 1-3-1 defensive system, is a sign of Pronger’s ability to play mind games with the opposition.
The Lightning may have not shown frustration, but Pronger’s attempt to draw them out of their defensive scheme surely got underneath their skin. It’s little things like this, and his tactics during the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, that help get the opposing team off their game and more focused on things other than hockey. Unfortunately, for the Flyers, it didn’t work tonight as the Lightning still won.
The Flyers look to move past this setback, as they play the Florida Panthers for the first time this season on Sunday evening.
Notes: The Flyers have earned at least a point in their last six games (4-0-2)…The Flyers are 0-3 this season in games past regulation (0-2 in overtime, 0-1 in shootouts)…Before Bergeron’s game-tying power-play goal in the third period tonight, the last power-play goal allowed by the Flyers was Evander Kane’s tally in the second period of the Flyers’ loss to the Jets on 10/27…With the secondary assist on Hartnell’s goal in the second period, Kimmo Timonen now leads the team with 11 assists…Connolly’s overtime goal is his first game-winning goal in the NHL…Totaling five points (2 goals, 3 assists) in the first 13 games of the season, Voracek has four points (1 goal, 3 assists) in the last two games…Tonight was the third time the Flyers have out scored the opposition in the second period (1-0)…The Flyers haven’t allowed a first period goal since 10/27 (9-8 loss to the Jets, allowed three goals in the first).