Flyers Beat Capitals In Gagne’s Return

Image courtesy of John Russo from http://flyers.thecheckingline.com

Claude Giroux led the way, scoring a goal and an assist, and Simon Gagne lit the lamp in his return to Philadelphia, as the Flyers defeated the Washington Capitals 4-1. The Orange and Black improved to 10-11-1 on the season and 2-2-0 on their current home stand.

Scoring along with Giroux were Wayne Simmonds and Max Talbot, while goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov made his 20th start of the season and earned the win after saving 22-of-23 shots.

Joel Ward scored the Capitals lone goal late in regulation. Starting goaltender Braden Holtby was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 18 shots. The Capitals turned to rookie Philipp Grubauer, making his first career NHL appearance, and the former ECHL Player of the Month saved all 13 shots he faced.

Gagne’s return to the Orange and Black provided an extra spark to a notoriously slow starting Flyers team. Although Gagne did not start the game, his energy could be felt throughout the team, stadium, and game.

The Flyers, boosted by extra fan support scored 23 seconds into the game as Giroux took a Scott Hartnell pass from behind the net. The puck went off a Caps defender onto Giroux’s stick for an easy tap-in. Giroux’s goal helped him to improve to a six-game point streak.

“The guys on the first shift played hard, played smart,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “They were tight defensively and we got a chance in the offensive zone, there was good movement and lots of opportunities.”

Simmonds would score on the Power Play just over three minutes later as the Capitals Mike Riberio took a tripping penalty. The goal was vintage Simmonds. Giroux found Hartnell in the slot for a one-timer, which Simmonds, while falling down, put in the net to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead.

Bryzgalov was at his best in the first stopping Caps star center Nicklas Backstrom on a redirected shot in the slot.

“He was sharp early,” Laviolette said. “There wasn’t a lot of work, maybe ten quality chances. But, early on, when you want your team to build a lead and to shut down your opponent, you always need saves from your goaltender. And, I thought he was sharp early”

The second period had the moment that the crowd had been waiting for. Gagne, playing on the power play with Danny Briere and Brayden Schenn found himself all alone at the side of the net. Briere’s initial shot left a rebound to Schenn who sent a no-look pass across the ice to Gagne, who tapped in the power play goal for his first goal of the season and first as a Flyer since the 2010 playoffs.

“I thought that Simon had a real good game both defensively and offensively for us,” said Laviolette. “I thought he did a good job.

The game continued to bounce the Flyers way as a Capitals turnover led to Max Talbot’s first goal of the season. Talbot received the pass from Luke schenn just inside the blue line, and then unleashed a blast that would end Holtby’s night for the Capitals.

“There’s been a lot of talk about Max and the fact he hasn’t scored, but Max does a lot of things on the ice,” Laviolette said. “We thought Max was doing a great job.”

The Flyers continued to control the pace of play, as well as the game. Bryzgalov came up big on a penalty kill in the second period stopping the Caps on any and all chances. It was only with 2:09 remaining in the game that Ward was able to beat Bryz on a rebound chance that Bryzgalov could not corral.

A scary moment occurred with just 25 seconds remaining as Capitals forward Mathieu Perreault brought the puck up passed the red zone, lost control, and was slammed into by Harry Zolnierczyk. Perreault had to be helped off the ice and Zolnierczyk was given a game misconduct.

“I thought it was a clean hockey hit. Just a good hard hockey hit,” said Laviolette

The Flyers, playing perhaps their most complete game of the season, were led in hits (6), shots (5), and time on ice (24:36) by Luke Schenn, who too played perhaps his finest game of the season.

The Flyers play the final game of their home stand Saturday afternoon versus the Ottawa Senators. Game time is noon.

Game Notes: Jakub Voracek saw his six-game point streak snapped. Gagne scored his first goal since November 2011. The Flyers now sit in the 8th playoff spot but have also played the most games of any team.