An unlikely hero arose in the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday night to lead the Flyers (4-6-0, 5th in the Atlantic Division) to a much needed victory.
When Tom Sestito scored to put the Flyers up 1-0 with 15:35 remaining in the second period, it was his first goal in over two calendar years. It would only take him another 26:46 to find the back of the net once again. Both goals were identical; Sestito dropped his shoulder and made a slick forehand to backhand move, finding the five-hole each time. His second goal would be the eventual game-winner.
On a night where Tampa Bay (6-3-0, 1st in the Southeast Division) sought to establish themselves as an elite team in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers were simply looking to find their identity after a disappointing start to the lockout shortened season.
Ilya Bryzgalov (4-5-0, .923 SV%, 2.24 GAA) remains the most valuable Flyer this season. The oft criticized netminder once again made all the right moves, frustrating the league’s top scoring offense. On a night full of impressive saves, the most spectacular one came with 3:08 left in the first period when Martin St. Louis set Steven Stamkos up for a one-timer. Bryzgalov went post to post to keep the game scoreless.
Both the defense and forecheck were much improved also, keeping the pressure on Tampa Bay. The Flyers did not allow Stamkos and co. much in terms of scoring opportunities. After Benoit Pouliot scored with 10:30 left in the 3rd period, the Flyers defense stepped up, not allowing another shot for a span of over eight minutes; a span which included a Lightning power play.
Overall, the Flyers’ special teams also began to show some improvement. Though the power play unit was 0-2, they were able to keep the pressure on Tampa Bay and get a few quality shots on net. The most important improvement, however, was in the team’s penalty kill. The Flyers PK held the Lightning to only two shots on goal, and prevented them from scoring during their four power play opportunities.
The Flyers are now riding back-to-back wins, and appear to be finding their groove with a lot of hockey still left to play in this young season. If Bryzgalov can continue his high level of play, and the special teams can work out their kinks, the Flyers have the potential to be contenders in the Eastern Conference.