In the hours before Game 5 of their opening round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers star Claude Giroux engaged in some prognosticating.
Or maybe it was wishful thinking.
Or maybe it was just trying to give a teammate a boost.
When asked what he expected of Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov in Game 5, Giroux said: “He’s going to be great tonight. I’ve got a feeling. He’s focused and he wants to win. He can’t wait for tonight.”
Bryzgalov wasn’t great.
Put it this way: he wasn’t the best goalie on the ice and as is often the case at this time of year, that means he and his team was the loser.
Bryzgalov and the Flyers lost 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night and so the Penguins chance to become the fourth team in NHL playoff history to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series lives on, at least until Game 6 Sunday back in Philly when the Penguins will have a chance to tie the series.
Bryzgalov was coming off a Game 4 performance that saw him pulled in favour of Sergei Bobrovsky early in the second period after giving up five goals on 18 shots on the way to the Penguins’ 10-3 victory to stay alive. After he only practised for 10 minutes on Thursday, there was some speculation he might have sustained a hip injury (he still has a sore foot), but the hip injury theory was shot down by Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren.
Bryzgalov didn’t have much chance on the Penguins first goal, a one-timer on the power play by Steve Sullivan. He was beaten by Jordan Staal from 35 feet on a 2-on-1 to tie it 2-2 and Tyler Kennedy buried a 37-footer behind a screened Bryzgalov to put the Penguins up 3-2 halfway through the second.
No, you wouldn’t look at the Penguins goals Friday night and say Bryzgalov gave up a really bad one.
He just didn’t come up with the big save when the Flyers needed one through the first two periods, say maybe a stop on Staal on that 2-on-1.
At the other end of the ice, Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury did.
There was a pad save on Penguins killer Daniel Briere in the third minute of the game. He made a close-in stop on Philly’s great rookie, Matt Read, on a short-handed break-in seconds before Sullivan scored up at the other end of the ice.
Fleury made another left pad save on Jaromir Jagr early in the second and turned back Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds with another sharp pad save as the second period wound down.
After a crazy first four games, the Flyers now haven’t scored an even-strength goal since early in the third period of Game 3. They had a chance to tie it up on the power play halfway through the third, but that is when Fleury took over the game.
The Flyers pounded seven shots on goal during the slashing penalty to Kennedy, but Fleury had the best stretch of goaltending this series has seen, stoning Jakub Voracek, Jagr and Daniel Briere on the Flyers’ best chances.
Shortly after the penalty ended, he stood his ground and turned back a net-crashing Scott Hartnell.
One of Fleury’s redeeming strengths has been his ability to dismiss subpar performances or bad goals and buff up his shine.
He has done it in this series.
The goaltending performances weren’t close in Game 5 – not that Bryzgalov was bad, but Fleury that good – so now there will be a Game 6.