Ilya Bryzgalov shuts down the Washington Capitals

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With Philadelphia missing three of their top defensemen, Andrej Meszaros, Kimmo Timonen, and of course, Chris Pronger, someone had to step up if they were going to beat the Washington Capitals. Ilya Bryzgalov did just that.

Bryzgalov seems to have turned a corner since the All-Star break and he certainly came up big on Sunday, turning aside all 34 shots he faced in a 1-0 victory. He is now one win away from reaching the 25-victory mark for the fifth straight season. It was also his eighth straight start, although Bryzgalov apparently isn’t counting.

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The game got off to a heated start when Washington’s Troy Brouwer slammed Erik Gustafsson into the boards. That led to a fight between Brouwer and Scott Hartnell at 5:33 of the first period. However, things calmed down after that and there wasn’t a single penalty called in the second or third periods.

In a game that featured some of the NHL’s best forwards, it was Eric Wellwood, playing in his ninth career NHL contest, that scored the only goal of the match. Pavel Kubina and Matt Carle each recorded an assist.

Capitals coach Dale Hunter decided to limit Alex Ovechkin to just 16:11 minutes of playing time as his team was shutout for the second straight game. They’ll need to right their ship quickly if they want to avoid falling too far behind in the packed race for the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed. They have four games scheduled for next week, including key matchups against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday.

The Flyers primary job is to find a way to continue winning despite their injury woes. Although they are all-but certain to make the playoffs, the competition is fierce for fourth place. A bad March could result in them slipping all the way down to seventh place.