Tom Sestito recorded his first career two-goal game with Philadelphia — overshadowing the return of defenseman Matt Carle to Philadelphia — as the Flyers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning by a 2-1 score in their second meeting in the last nine days.
Sestito also managed to double his entire career goal output, while Zac Rinaldo created a sensation of another kind when he scored a knockout in a first-period bout with B.J. Crombeen.
Ilya Bryzgalov continued his stellar play, stopping 21-of-22 shots as the Orange and Black pulled off back-to-back wins for the second time this season thanks to shutting down the NHL’s top offense.
Benoit Pouliot registered the only goal for the Lightning, who began a four-game road trip on a sour note despite carrying the largest goal differential in the league plus its top power-play unit.
Anders Lindback made 22 saves as Tampa was coming off a 3-2 home loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday which ended a five-game homestand.
The teams entered the tilt as almost polar opposites. The Lightning sat atop the Southeast Division and at second in the Eastern Conference, whereas the Flyers were last in the Atlantic Division and second to last in the entire conference.
Additionally, Tampa Bay was riding exceptionally hot special teams play, clicking at 36.1 percent on the advantage and the 10th-best penalty kill at 83.3 percent entering the game. The Flyers, on the other hand, after a three for three power play performance on Saturday still only ranked 16th on the power play at 18.6 percent and the penalty kill came in at 24th while operating at only a 73.8-percent clip.
However, the Flyers got the better of the special-teams battle. Despite not registering a power-play goal, they did manage to go 4-for-4 on the penalty kill against the formidable man-advantage attack of the Lightning.
Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette shared in the praise for his team’s ability to shut down the visitors’ power play. “I thought the penalty kill did a real nice job, they’re a dangerous group out there.”
But it was Sestito who managed to steal the show. In only his fifth game of the season and 19th with the franchise, he lifted the struggling club to a badly-needed victory.
The first flash of his undiscovered skill came 4:25 into the second period to give the Flyers the 1-0 lead. Jakub Voracek fed Sestito with a gorgeous pass from the boards after winning a battle for the puck. Sestito received the disc, went in on Lindback alone, deked from his forehand to his backhand and tucked it between the netminder’s arm and body.
Pouliot tied it for the Lightning at 9:30 of the third period on a blown coverage by Flyers defenseman Bruno Gervais, who left Pouliot all alone in front of the net. The score also wouldn’t have come about if not for a perfect pass by Teddy Purcell, who won a battle behind the net and dished into the slot.
Sestito then recaptured the lead for the Flyers and netted the game winner at 11:11 of the third. In a 3-on-2 rush with linemates Max Talbot and Ruslan Fedotenko, the puck found its way onto Sestito’s stick and, in a near mirror image of his first goal, he found the back of the net once more with a backhander.
“It’s great that Tom chipped in like that. He’s a big body that goes up and down the wing. He does a lot for our club and for him to get the two goals tonight, it’s gotta make him feel good, and make us feel good as well.” Laviolette said of Sestito.
Bryzgalov was almost perfect on the night, making a number of exceptional stops throughout the contest. If not for a blown coverage leading to the Tampa Bay goal, he could very well have recorded his first shutout of the season. Bryzgalov repeatedly made big saves, stopping a number of one-time opportunities moving from his left to his right, and swallowing the rebounds.
Things got tense and the crowd held their breath for a moment with just over eight minutes left in regulation, when Bolts winger Cory Conacher rushed the net and collided with Bryzgalov which resulted in the host goalie staying down inside his own net and clutching his left leg for a period of time. He did get up however, and did not have to leave the game. There also was no penalty on the play.
Despite a dominant effort in the faceoff circle by Claude Giroux, going 18-for-25, it was Sean Couturier taking the important defensive-zone draws late in the third period. Things got a bit complicated near the end of the game, as the Bolts had a 6-on-4 advantage with Lindback pulled and Philly defenseman Braydon Coburn off for holding the stick, but the Flyers held on for the one-goal victory.
Rinaldo proved that when he isn’t in the penalty box for an infraction, be it deserved or based on reputation, he can provide value to the club. In a scoreless first stanza, he engaged Crombeen in a fight with 6:19 played that didn’t end too well for the Lightning player.
“It adds a huge bolt of energy.” offered Laviolette in regards to Rinaldo’s decisive win. It is one of those [fights] that can really pick up a game.”
Crombeen, despite initially being cleared by Tampa medical staff, left the game for “precautionary reasons” and did not return.
Notes: Sestito’s last goal happened on December 23, 2010 for Columbus against the Vancouver Canucks…Tampa Bay finished its road trip at 4-1-0… Carle made his return to the Wells Fargo Center for the first time since signing a free-agent contract with Tampa Bay after spending four seasons in Philadelphia. He received a small smattering of boos when he first touched the puck…Lightning forward Vincent Lecavalier dropped the gloves for the second time in as many games for Tampa Bay, a rarity for the skilled player…Sestito joined a few other notable Flyers enforcers who have managed to record at least one multi-goal game while here: Donald Brashear, Scott Daniels, Dave Schultz, and Dave Brown…These teams will play in Tampa on March 18 to close out the season series.