PHILADELPHIA – Ilya Bryzgalov was a man of few words Sunday. But those that he chose to use said plenty.
Asked if anything needed to be said to the team before they’re 3-2 win over Buffalo Sunday, Bryzgalov said no.
“We all can read,” he said. “We all can count.”
And the Flyers were counting that they came into the game ranked 11th in the Eastern Conference of the NHL and after a win earlier in the day by the New York Rangers, five points out of a playoff spot.
With 22 games to go, it became pretty apparent to the team that the culture needed to change and the focus needed to be on winning games any way possible.
So, they started that trend Sunday, jumping all over the Buffalo Sabres in the first 30 minutes of the game, then hanging on by their fingernails over the final 30 minutes to snap a three-game losing skid.
“It was enough said before,” said Bryzgalov who made 18 saves to pick up his 12th win of the season. “It is time for action and to see how it goes. It’s time to try to win the games and try to make the playoffs.”
And it was also time to score goals again.
After a drought of 104 minutes and 39 seconds without a goal, Simon Gagne gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead with a power play goal 4:31 into the contest.
"It doesn't take much to understand what's going on,” Gagne said. “You look at the standings and I think everyone came to the locker room today and looked at where we were at and how many games we have left.
“I'm not good at math but if you look at it we have to win games right now. This one was a must win against a team that has struggled. While we have also kind of struggled the last few games this one was up for grabs.”
And Gagne made sure the Flyers got hold of it and didn’t let go.
His goal was followed up by a shorthanded tally by Max Talbot that made it 2-0.
While Talbot was credited with his second goal, the play was made completely by Ruslan Fedotenko who first stripped Steve Ott of the puck in the Flyers end and then out-hustled Tyler Ennis down the right wing before floating a perfect saucer pass onto the tape of Talbot’s stick for the easy score and a 2-0 lead.
"Specialty teams are such an important part of the game,” Talbot said. “When you go on a PK it is about killing the penalty first but when you get the chance and put it in the net it is definitely gives the team a boost.
"I saw Feds kind of having a little bit of time on the wings so I just figured I would burst through their hole and Feds did a great play of giving me the puck and I got the goal."
The Flyers did let one up later in the period when Brian Flynn popped in a rebound of a Kevin Porter shot, but the Flyers answered early in the second period when Claude Giroux streaked into the zone on the opening shift and snapped a wrister past Ryan Miller 17 seconds in to make it 3-1.
It was the fourth time this season that Giroux has scored a goal in the opening minute of a regulation period. The Flyers have now done that 10 times this season.
But from there, things started to get a little sloppy. The Flyers started to tire, as they looked like a team playing on back-to-back days as well as for the third time in four nights.
Buffalo got a shorthanded goal in the third period when Giroux failed to keep the puck in at the point, creating a 2-on-1 situation that resulted in a Jochen Hecht goal to narrow the lead to 3-2.
However, the Flyers held their ground and didn’t give up a lot of chances, and the ones they did give up, Bryzgalov saved – or one of his teammates did.
Bryzgalov had a heck of a post to post save on Cody Hodgson in the second period to keep the lead at two goals at the time, but the biggest save of the game came courtesy of Brayden Schenn.
A shot that squeezed through Bryzgalov was slowly sliding into the net, but Schenn, who was backchecking furiously, was able to stop it just in time before it crossed the goal line to maintain the one goal cushion.
“Big save,” was all Bryzgalov had to say about it. “Big save.”
But Schenn elaborated further.
“I just remember it was just two-on-two, from the red line in,” Schenn said. “They shot it, it must have deflected and I actually thought [Bryzgalov] made the save originally. I saw it squeak through. I don’t know how close it was, I haven’t seen the replay yet. But it’s always good to help the goalie out.”
It was the kind of play that is made when the team is skating hard, playing the right way and with a lot of confidence.
And although it’s just one win, it’s a starting point as the Flyers (12-14-1, 25 points) find themselves just four points behind the No. 7 seeded Devils – who they pley their next two games.
“This was a good start,” Gagne said. “Now overall we still have some things to improve, but it's a good start. Now we can focus on Jersey, two big games, maybe the biggest games of the season for us. After those two games it could make a big difference about where we are in the standings."
To contact Anthony SanFilippo email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37