PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 17 shots for this third straight shutout and fourth in five games to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.
Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek and Danny Briere scored to provide the offense.
After an underwhelming start to the season, Bryzgalov has dominated of late and proved worthy of the nine-year, $51 million contract he signed in June. He stretched his shutout streak to more than 196 minutes and has stopped 152 of 154 shots.
The Devils didn’t test him much, but it might not have mattered. He went 3-0 last week with a 0.65 goals-against average and a .979 save percentage in three starts.
Bryzgalov beat Washington 1-0 on March 4, then was a 3-2 winner over Detroit. He had back-to-back shutouts, making 28 stops in a 5-0 win against the Florida Panthers on March 8 and 29 saves, plus another two in the shootout, in a 1-0 victory at Toronto on March 10.
He outplayed Martin Brodeur and denied the New Jersey goalie career win No. 651. Brodeur won his 650th career game on Sunday when he beat the Flyers 4-1. Sergei Bobrovsky was in goal for the Flyers that night as the streaking Bryzgalov got a night off after starting 11 straight games.
In his last 11 starts, entering Tuesday, Bryzgalov had a 1.95 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. Bryzgalov had a pedestrian 3.01 GAA entering the Winter Classic.
Bryzgalov, the self-deprecating Russian, was benched Jan. 2 for the NHL’s signature game. He will be expected to perform like he has over his recent hot streak if the Flyers have any chance of winning their first Stanley Cup title since 1976.
Bryzgalov admitted in the lead-up to the Winter Classic that leaving Phoenix for big money and a hockey-mad market has made him feel added pressure. Earlier this season, Bryzgalov said he was “lost in the woods.” He found his way out — and is now back on top of his game.
The Flyers took a two-point lead over the Devils and moved into fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Bryzgalov got plenty of help from Voracek, who needed stitches in his upper and lower mouth after he took a blast to the face last week from Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall. He complained of headaches and missed three games, but wasn’t diagnosed with a concussion.
He put the Flyers up 2-0 in the third when he fought for the puck in the crease and flipped it past Brodeur. Voracek also had the assist on Briere’s 14th goal — which snapped his 23-game drought. Briere, who scored into an empty net after Brodeur was pulled late in the third, raised his arms in triumph and broke out a huge smile for ending the puzzling skid.
Couturier made it 1-0 in the first when he pounded a puck that was fired off the boards into the net. From there, Flyers fans derisively chanted “Mar-ty! Mar-ty!” at Brodeur.
NOTES: Flyers D Kimmo Timonen also returned after missing five games with a back injury. … The Flyers improved to 3-2-1 against New Jersey this season. … The Flyers have won six of seven games.
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