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Give Flyers' D an 'A'

Simon Gagne made a triumphant return, Scott Hartnell set up the first two goals, and Claude Giroux had a pair of points in the Flyers' convincing 4-1 win over Washington on Wednesday night.

But this was also a night for the defense.

Ilya Bryzgalov (23 saves) had his strongest game in nearly two weeks, and Luke Schenn and Nick Grossmann led the defense as the Flyers (10-11-1) again climbed close to .500.

Bryzgalov made several excellent saves in the first period, which ended with the Flyers holding a 2-0 lead.

"I think he was sharp tonight, especially early on," coach Peter Laviolette said. "They had a power play where they had some opportunities. There were some tricky plays through the slots, a couple of re-directs. He was sharp early. There wasn't a lot of work, maybe 10 quality chances (all night), but early on when you want your team to build the lead and to shut down the opponent, you always need saves from your goaltender."

Schenn played a game-high 24:36, collected an assist, had six hits and fired a team-high five shots.

Grossmann blocked seven shots, increasing his total to 61, tops in the NHL.

For the most part, the Flyers' kept the Caps' shots from the perimeter; they allowed just 24 shots _ and a half-dozen of them were in the waning minutes.

Bryz heave. An angry Bryzgalov threw his stick three times in a two-day period last week. He also heaved it during practice Wednesday morning in Voorhees.

He claimed his latest heave was "for the fun of it," though the heart-to-heart, on-ice discussion he had with Laviolette suggested otherwise.

"He can throw his stick all he wants if he plays like that," Hartnell said after Wednesday's victory. "He's a little frustrated sometimes, just like we are when we miss an empty net or something like that. I think everyone goes through that kind of period. He's been our steadiest player throughout this whole season. For him to keep going like that, that's the only way we're going to be successful."

Gustafsson injured. Erik Gustafsson left the game early in the second period and did not return. Gustfasson injured his shin blocking an Eric Fehr shot. The Delco Times also reported that Gustafsson may have a groin injury.

Gustafsson didn't think the injury was serious.

"I'll be back sooner rather than later," he said.

If Gustafsson can't play Saturday afternoon against visiting Ottawa, Kurtis Foster figures to return to the lineup.

 Harry Z. update. As of late Thursday afternoon, Harry Zolnierczyk did not have a hearing scheduled with NHL disciplinary czar Brendan Shanahan for his hit on Mathieu Perreault with 25 seconds left Wednesday.

Zolnierczyk received a kneeing major and game misconduct, and he appeared to leap when he delivered the hit.

Both Laviolette and Washington coach Adam Oates thought the hit was clean.

The Caps' Alex Ovechkin thought otherwise.

"….Thirty seconds left, a 4-1 lead, why you have to kill the guy?" he asked.

Breakaways. The Flyers moved into eighth place in the East, though they have played more games than all other teams.... Gagne (see story) ended a 32-game goal drought, including the playoffs. It was his 260th regular-season goal for the Flyers. "He didn't miss a beat out there," Schenn said…..Giroux has points in the last six games (four goals, eight assists).

Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.