Another day, another heart-stopping finish by the Senators, making a hero out of a goaltender that surrendered a four-spot to the mighty Philadelphia Flyers.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” said Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson after the whacky 6-4 win. Anderson’s heroic, sprawling stop on Andreas Lilja in the second period prevented what would have been an insurmountable three-goal lead by Philly.
“You just stick with it,” Anderson said. “We’re a pretty resilient bunch. We score in bunches, you can’t get down on yourself, or down on your teammates, when things don’t go the way you want them to.”
It figured to be a looong evening for the starting goaltenders.
Both Anderson and the redoubtable Ilya Bryzgalov of the Philadelphia Flyers had met just the day before in Philly, in a game won by the Flyers 3-2 in overtime. Now they were in Ottawa, backing a couple of tired teams, on a backchecking-optional Sunday.
Can anybody see the puck out there?
We started to wonder. Both teams scored on their first shot on goal, Daniel Alfredsson for Ottawa and Andrej Meszaros for the Flyers. Combined, the teams ripped 30 shots in the first period alone, as Anderson staggered to the dressing room on the wrong side of a 3-2 leger.
On the plus side, he stopped 13 of the 16 offerings by the Flyers, but he couldn’t see the floating wrist shot from Marc-Andre Bourdon and had to be wondering — why me? — 28 seconds later when the Flyers burst up on ice on a 3-on-2, which rookie Sean Couturier converted with a wrister to the top corner to give the visitors their first lead of the day.
It didn’t help Anderson’s cause that defenceman Matt Carkner had been dumped into a heap up at the other end to spark the Flyers odd-man rush.
Afternoon games have a way of bringing out the best and worst out of hockey players – usually leaving the goalies to mop up the mistakes. And there were plenty.
“It’s just a little different,” Anderson said of the matinee start. “You don’t pre-game skate (in the morning), less time time to hang around the rink, it’s a different routine and I think we’ve done a good job of making good out of these afternoon games.”
During one wild goalmouth scramble in the first period, Bryzgalov almost looked ‘lost in the woods’ to borrow from the man’s greatest quotes. The fun started with a harmless looking wrist shot from the point by Erik Karlsson, which the Bryz turned into a free for all by releasing a rebound, bodies and sticks flying around him.
Sprawled across the red line, Bryzgalov reached for and gloved a Chris Neil shot, out of the mayhem, and spit it back out for another series of jabs at the puck. This time he froze it, but the prior sequence was reviewed and after a lengthy look by NHL operations, Neil was credited for a goal because Bryzgalov’s glove was over the line.
And the party was on.
Recognizing that Bryzgalov was kicking out shots as though he were employed by Rebounds R Us, the Senators started shooting from just about anywhere. Trouble was, the Flyers had possession for long stretches of the second period. Toss in a questionable tripping call to Erik Condra, and a power play goal by Matt Read off a rebound and Bryzgalov had a two goal cushion with which to work in the third period.
Anderson’s save on Lilja grew in importance when the Flyers put one in their own net early in the third period, Matt Carle inadvertently redirecting a pass from Ottawa’s Colin Greening, intended for Jason Spezza streaking to the net.
“Bad bounces, (unlucky) goals are my fate I guess,” said Bryzgalov.
The Greening goal had everyone primed for more third period magic from the Senators.
So, when Erik Karlsson stripped the Hall of Fame-bound Jaromir Jagr of the puck and beat Bryzgalov with a low shot, five-hole, to tie the game, the expectations soared for 20,000-plus in the building.
Again, Bryzgalov seemed perplexed.
“I showed him as little space as possible (between the pads),” Bryzgalov said, “and he tries to go there (anyway).”
It isn’t you, Bryz. These days, Karlsson can do no wrong, as his plus five would attest.
In the end, Anderson made 33 saves on 37 Flyer shots to get the win. Bryzgalov allowed five Ottawa goals also on 37 shots, as the 38th shot by the Senators was by Nick Foligno into an empty net.
Without a doubt, one of the wildest games of the season. Go figure that on Ottawa’s power play chance in the third period, Anderson was the goaltender called on to make the toughest save, stopping Couturier on a 2 on 1.
It was the kind of day that had goalies looking for trouble when none seemed apparent, such as a Lilja shot that hit Chris Phillips in the shoulder, changed direction and suddenly veered to Anderson’s left as he stabbed it with his trapper.
Afterward, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette was so annoyed he could barely speak.
Forward Daniel Briere called the loss “unacceptable,” noting his team has blown two goal leads in three recent games.
The Senators are pleased to be one of them, shaking up the Flyers before heading out onto the January road.