Feb 2, 2012, 11:15 PM EDT
Plenty of great story lines from the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night, as the Orange and Black pick up their first win coming out of the All Star Break by downing the Nashville Predators 4-1. Ilya Bryzgalov played well for the second consecutive game, Matt Read extended his lead on rookie goal scorers, and Claude Giroux snapped out of his funk, albeit on an empty net.
But like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Glover before him, Wayne Simmonds took down the Predators, drowning two goals to lead the Flyers, and it wasn’t just what showed up on the scoreboard that impressed. Simmonds had 10 shots on goal to pace the entire offense, as he and linemates Brayden Schenn and Zac Rinaldo outworked Nashville all night long — and in the end, the shot Simmonds didn’t take that wound up being one of the plays of the game.
Down 3-1 with under two minutes to go, Nashville pulled their goalie and went to work in Philly’s zone. Simmonds eventually wound up with the puck with an opportunity to wing it the length of the ice for an attempt at a hat trick. Not square to the target and surrounded by white jerseys, Simmonds instead made the smart play, simply banking it off the boards and out of the zone rather than risk icing it.
It seems so simple, and maybe it should not be overstated as there really was no other play to be made in that situation. That said, it capped off a brilliant night for one of the key pieces from the Mike Richards trade.
A few moments later, Jaromir Jagr wound up with the disc, and unselfishly handed it off to Giroux, who really needed one to get his stroke back. It was his 19th of the season, but his first in a month, going all the way back to the Winter Classic.
While everybody is happy to see G break the curse, regardless of circumstance, the opportunity only came about thanks to the club’s consistent effort in every phase of the game.
After the Flyers caught a few posts early on, Simmonds finally got the scoring started late the first period. Schenn stayed strong on the puck as Mike Fisher harassed him along the sideboards until Simmonds popped out of the corner. Schenn made the exchange as Simmonds skated into the slot, then spun around and snapped the biscuit into the far side of the net as Rinaldo screened Anders Lindback.
Read would provide some breathing room later in the second with a sensational individual effort. Read straight jacked Kevin Klein at the blue line, the D-man thinking — wrongly — he could just step around the feisty rookie, who zipped up the ice on a breakaway. Harry Zolniercyzk was trailing, which have provided just enough of a distraction to Lindback as Read slipped one through the five hole for the 2-0 lead.
It was Read’s 16th goal on the season, putting him two ahead of Vancouver’s Cody Hodgson for the most by a rookie, and his 32 points are third.
Nashville got one back midway through the final frame, sort of an ‘oh no’ moment against a surging opponent. Ryan Suter scored during a three-on-two break where Craig Smith made a nifty play to maintain control of the puck. At the last possible instant, he went across the ice to Suter, who had Bryzgalov dead to rights.
It was difficult goal to lay at Bryz’s feet, especially in a game where he was otherwise magnificent. Philly’s netminder blocked 26 of 27 shots, while the Flyers as a whole killed off four power plays.
Before the Preds could complete the comeback, Simmonds answered. An ill-advised interference by Jerred Smithson put the Flyers on the power play with just under six minutes remaining. Giroux gained the zone, and eventually went to work at the point. He snapped one on net, and with a Scott Hartnell redirection, the puck rebounded softly on to Simmonds’ stick, stationed conveniently a foot from the net.
The goals were Simmonds’s 14th and 15th of the season, which puts him one away from his career high with the Kings in 09-10. Barring major injury, it’s safe to say he’ll eclipse that total.
While this was by no means an easy win, the entire contest turned out to be a slam dunk. The Flyers established themselves at home with timely goal scoring and solid goaltending, plus had the added bonus of getting their star player back on track. In that sense, they made hockey look easy for one night, earning a very satisfying two points.
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