Ilya Bryzgalov needed a big boost at the end to get the victory he badly wanted against his former team.
Matt Read knocked in a rebound with 18.6 seconds left to make a winner out Bryzgalov and lift the Philadelphia Flyers to a 2-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.
Bryzgalov spent four years with Phoenix and blossomed into one of the NHL’s top goalies. When negotiations broke down because the Russian goalie wanted to not only be a top-paid goalie in the NHL, but one of the top-paid players in the league, Phoenix decided to part ways.
The Coyotes sent Bryzgalov’s negotiating rights to the Flyers, and he signed a nine-year, $51 million deal.
Bryzgalov acknowledged he earned extra satisfaction from the win.
"It’s my former team and not an easy team to beat," he said.
His job was made tougher when the Flyers lost forward Jaromir Jagr to an undisclosed lower body injury. Jagr played only 1 minute, 22 seconds over three shifts before being forced out in the first period. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Jagr won’t travel with the team for Saturday’s game at Winnipeg.
The Flyers had something to celebrate as they held their breath waiting for news on Jagr. Jagr has six goals and 17 points in his first season with the Flyers and his first NHL season after a three-year stint in Russia. His jovial personality has been a good fit in the locker room and he has been on a hot streak. He went straight to the locker room and there didn’t appear to be a clear hit on him.
Bryzgalov said this week he was looking forward to a special game against Phoenix. He made 30 saves and had the stop of the game when he snagged Ray Whitney’s breakaway moments after a Philadelphia turnover.
He got the win thanks to Philadelphia’s late push for the winner. Jakub Voracek and Max Talbot assisted on the deciding goal that came when Read pounded the puck for his sixth goal of the season past a surprised Mike Smith.
"We just had to get pucks to the net and hope for a lucky bounce or a good scoring opportunity," Read said.
James van Riemsdyk scored for the Flyers. Mikkel Boedker had the lone goal for the Coyotes.
"You need to play in those tight games and know how to win them," Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger said.
Smith, who has replaced Bryzgalov in the Phoenix net, had a solid game in stopping 40 shots.
"He gives us the chance to win every night and that’s all you can ask from any goaltender," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.
With Jagr out, van Riemsdyk took his place on a line that included Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell. Van Riemsdyk scored his seventh goal in the second to make it 1-0.
Boedker tied it 3:38 into the third period off a rebound into the side of the net. It was the lone time they beat Bryzgalov.
"He’s definitely a great goaltender. You have to get stuff around the crease and bang away with it," Tippett said. "We got ourselves back in that game with that goal, so that’s why it’s so disappointing to give up that one at the end."
Even though Smith took the loss, he kept the Coyotes in the game facing heavy pressure all night. He stopped all 12 shots in the first period and 16 more in the second. It just wasn’t enough.
NOTES: Flyers C Zac Rinaldo was given a 10-minute misconduct. … Former Flyers D Mark Howe received a standing ovation in his first game at Philadelphia since he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. … Flyers F Danny Briere bloodied Rostislav Klesla with a high stick. … Flyers D Erik Gustafsson had wrist surgery and will miss six weeks. … The Flyers had 40 or more shots in a game for the third time this season, but it was the first time they did it in a win.