Third Period Surge Not Enough, Niemi Blanks Flyers 1-0

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For the second time in their road trip, the Flyers failed to score, as Antti Niemi led the Sharks to a 1-0 win tonight in San Jose. A goal from Ryane Clowe in the game’s first few minutes was all Niemi needed, as the former Chicago Blackhawk made 26 saves to blank the visiting Flyers.

For a second straight game, Ilya Bryzgalov allowed the game’s first goal on his first shot against. This time, however, the goalie bounced back to make several incredible saves to give the Flyers a chance to conclude their road trip with a victory.

Their inability to convert on chances, as well as take advantage of a strong performance from Bryzgalov, was the reason why Philly lost tonight, but one has to wonder what could have been if the refs didn’t miss a blatant penalty on Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

In the midst of the Flyers’ third period offensive surge, Danny Briere was checked from behind and into the boards violently by Vlasic.

“It seemed like a tough call,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “It seemed like (Vlasic) pushed him head first, and somebody can get hurt like that. But I haven’t seen it to comment on it. He’s fine. Right now he is anyway.”

What looked to be an obvious boarding or checking from behind penalty went without punishment, as the Sharks skated down the ice and enjoyed a 5-on-4 for a bit after the ridiculous non-call.

At the beginning of the game, the Sharks jumped out to the early lead on the goal from Clowe. As he entered the Flyers’ zone on a two-on-two with Joe Thornton, Clowe was able to handle the puck for a bit thanks to Thornton’s ability to draw the attention of both Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros. Clowe potted his 11th goal of the season with a wrister from the top of the circles to beat Bryzgalov 1:22 into the game.

Later in the period, Bryzgalov bailed out his teammates with a huge save on Brian Boyle. With ample time after he received the puck at the point, Boyle slowly walked in on Bryzgalov and released a wrister the goalie was able to stop with his glove before a scrum ensued after the whistle.

In the final minutes of the opening period, the Flyers started to get their chances, as things also started to get chippy.

After Tommy Wingels laid out Briere in the corner of the Sharks’ zone, several chances came from the Flyers’ offense. The closest scoring chance was a Meszaros’ blast from the point that eluded traffic and caused Niemi to topple over in the crease before an early whistle made Wayne Simmonds push Vlasic around out of frustration.

At the conclusion, Simmonds continued to converse with multiple Sharks, as the Flyers out hit San Jose 15-9 in the first 20 minutes. However, they trailed the Sharks by only one in the most important stat of the game thanks to Bryzgalov’s save on Boyle.

The second period started with a Flyers’ power play, as Brad Winchester was called for roughing at the 20:00 minute mark of the first period. The Flyers failed to convert on the man advantage, as well as their next power-play chance that came due to a Colin White delaying game minor 2:35 after Winchester exited the box.

A little over a minute after White returned to the ice, Jakub Voracek was hit with a hooking minor after he, and several other Flyers, failed in their attempts to take the puck away from Thornton in Philly’s zone. Despite a Patrick Marleau shot that clanked off the post, San Jose failed to convert on their man advantage to keep it a one-goal game.

Later in the period, Bryzgalov came up with a huge pair of saves to keep the Flyers within reach for the final 20 minutes.

After he denied a wide open wrister from Joe Pavelski minutes earlier, a lucky bounce off the end boards led to a chance for Marleau. As the puck wrapped around the boards, it took a funny hop out towards the crease while Bryzgalov looked to his right, where the puck would have gone if it continued its path. After he noticed the altered path, Bryzgalov was able to make a big save on Marleau in the crease.

At the end of 40 minutes, the Flyers’ deficit was one goal in a game where both teams had 17 shots on net.

To start the final period, Bryzgalov made several key saves to keep the Flyers one goal away from a tied game.

After an amazing sprawling glove save on Thornton at the top of a crease on a 2-on-1, Bryzgalov provided a kick save on T.J. Galiardi, as he moved across the crease without his stick.

For the final 10 minutes of the game, the Flyers cycled and created scoring chances, but couldn’t beat Niemi to tie it.

After they cycled strongly in the middle of the period, they didn’t produce their best scoring chances until the final minutes of the game. The most painful chance came in the final minute, when Jaromir Jagr threw a pass from behind the net into the slot. Due to Niemi on the ice after his attempt to stop the pass, Braydon Coburn had two chances to put a shot through traffic on net to tie the game.

Unfortunately, Coburn’s chances didn’t convert, as the Sharks edged out the 1-0 win in their first game at home after a nine-game road trip.

The Flyers return home on Thursday and host the New York Islanders, who lost 3-2 to the Washington Capitals tonight in overtime.

Notes: Tonight was the Flyers’ ninth straight loss to the Sharks. They haven’t beaten the Sharks in their last 12 tries, as their last win against San Jose was by the score 4-3 on December 21, 2000…Tonight was the third time the Flyers were shut out in February and the fifth time they were shut out this season. Niemi has all the Sharks’ shutouts this season with five…This is the eighth straight game the Flyers have allowed the first goal. They are 3-5-0 in this stretch of games…The Flyers haven’t won in regulation since their 7-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on February 16th. They are 2-3-0 in the five games since then with an overtime win and a shootout win…The Flyers haven’t won back-to-back games since they beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 on January 10th and The Islanders 3-2 on the 12th. They are 8-9-3 in the 20 games since that win over the Isles…The Flyers are 3-17-1 when trailing after two periods…This is the Sharks’ second win in their last eight games…This is the third straight game the Flyers didn’t score in the first period…This is the first time the Flyers lost 1-0 in regulation since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last season against the Sabres…Clowe had the decisive goal in the shootout last season in the Sharks’ 5-4 shootout against the Flyers…Both Daniel Winnik and Galiardi were held pointless with one shot on net in their first game as Sharks. Winnik also earned the game’s third star…Clowe’s goal ended a 12-game drought…This was Niemi’s first regular season game against the Flyers. He was the Chicago Blackhawks’ starting goaltender in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals…The Flyers dropped to 0-1-0 against the Sharks, 4-1-1 against the Pacific Division (PHX 2-0-0, SJS 0-1-0, DAL 1-0-0, LAK 0-0-1, ANA 1-0-0), and to 10-5-2 against the Western Conference this season…The Flyers dropped to 34-21-7. They were 40-16-6 after 62 games last season.