Instead, the game’s leading scorer entered the night with two career goals and a scratch five times in nine games this season.
Philadelphia’s Tom Sestito had the first two-goal game of his NHL career, and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 21 of 22 shots as the Philadelphia Flyers won their second straight game with a 2-1 victory.
When asked the last time he scored two goals in a game at any level, Sestito said, “Probably junior. Maybe England [during the work stoppage], I can’t really remember. It’s been a while, I can tell you that much.”
The goals were Sestito’s first in an NHL game since Dec. 23, 2010. Between the goals he had 140 penalty minutes, including 10 fights, in 30 games.
“It’s great to contribute like that, not just fighting all the time,” Sestito said.
Benoit Pouliot scored for the Lightning, and goalie Anders Lindback made 22 saves.
It’s been a rough season for Sestito, who still was recovering from a bout of the mumps when training camp opened.
“It hasn’t been easy since the start for Tom,” Briere said, “but finally having the chance to get in the lineup, scoring two big goals like that.”
After a scoreless first period that featured highlight-reel saves by both goalies, the Flyers got the game’s first goal when they capitalized on a defensive-zone mistake. Stamkos fumbled a puck along the wall on the left side of the Tampa Bay end and the Flyers’ Jakub Voracek jumped on it. He threaded a pass through the slot to Sestito on the far side, and the burly forward made a quick forehand-to-backhand deke and flipped the puck between Lindback’s pads.
The way Bryzgalov was playing, it looked like the goal would hold up, but Tampa Bay — which entered the night as the League’s highest-scoring team at 4.88 goals per game — finally got on the board at 9:30 of the third period on Pouliot’s third goal of the season.
Teddy Purcell beat three Flyers in a battle for the puck behind the Philadelphia goal and backhanded a no-look pass in front, where Pouliot was alone for a one-timer.
Moments later, though, Sestito came through again. Maxime Talbot rushed the puck along the right side into the Tampa Bay zone, creating a 3-on-2 rush, and centered a pass intended for Ruslan Fedotenko. The puck went off his stick to Sestito, who used the same forehand-to-backhand deke to again beat Lindback between his pads at 11:49 to put the Flyers ahead 2-1.
“I got one [move] and hopefully no goalie catches on to it,”Sestito said. “If it works once, I’m going to keep doing it until it stops working.”
After Sestito’s offensive explosion, Bryzgalov and a strong defensive effort took care of the rest. The Flyers limited the Lightning to just 22 shots, a season-low, and their penalty killing came up big, stopping the Lightning on all four chances.
“I thought the penalty kill did a real nice job,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “They are a dangerous group out there, but I thought our guys took away time and space. Our defenseman did a good job with sticks on pucks and eliminating gaps. Our forwards did a good job reloading and coming back hard to our end. We blocked a lot of shots tonight and cleaned up the front of the net. There were still a lot of good quality chances, it’s a talented group on the other side, but when we needed it, Bryzgalov was outstanding.”
Bryzgalov was at his best when the Lightning’s best players had prime scoring opportunities.
With 3:08 left in the first period, Stamkos found himself open in the left circle, his prime scoring location. St. Louis fed a backhand pass through the slot to him, but Bryzgalov went post-to-post to catch the shot with his upper body.
Then with 1:50 left in the second, Stamkos pounced on a Flyers turnover behind the Philadelphia net and walked in front to Bryzgalov’s left. The Philadelphia goalie sprawled forward to poke the puck off Stamkos’ stick, and then somehow recovered to get across to the other post to keep the rebound from bouncing off the skates of the Lightning’s Adam Hall and into the goal.
He made a pair of great stop to deny rookie Cory Conacher with 15:43 left in the third, and stymied the Lightning on a pair of power plays in the final 4:50 of regulation.
“Bryz was solid again tonight,” Briere said. “He looks comfortable. He looks in control. You know, nothing fazes him at this point. It’s good to see.”
As good as Bryzgalov played, Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher saw the game more as a night of missed opportunities.
“We missed too many quality scoring chances,” he told NHL.com. “If you miss that many in an NHL game, it’s bound to hurt you. Tonight, Stamkos gets two one-timers form the slot, [Ryan] Malone and Marty, and Pouliot got one but he missed another one. It’s two games in a row that we missed quality scoring chances. That’s the reason we didn’t get as many goals as the previous games.”
The Lightning, who started a four-game road trip Tuesday, played most of the game with just 11 forwards due to an injury to B.J. Crombeen. Crombeen and the Flyers’ Zac Rinaldo fought at 6:19 of the first period, and as Crombeen was going to the penalty box, he appeared to have some difficulty and instead was taken to the locker room. The Lightning announced he would not return for precautionary reasons, but Boucher said it was his decision to bench Crombeen.
“He was fine,” Boucher said. “He was on the bike right after [the fight]. He had the OK to get back on. I’m the one who decided to keep him off. … The doctor cleared him. He could have gone back. I felt when things happen like that, just take a breather.”
He added he expected Crombeen to be available for their next game, Thursday at the New Jersey Devils.
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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