Devils-Flyers: The Davids (Er, Devils) vs. Goliaths -- And The Bullies Prevail
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
By Stan Fischler
One team knocked off the 2012 Stanley Cup favorite Pittsburgh Penguins while the other just -- barely! -- eked out a double-overtime seventh game win over the Panthers.
Logic dictates that Philadelphia, therefore, would beat New Jersey in Round Two of the playoffs which opened Sunday afternoon in The Land of Benjamin Franklin.
But Devils coach Peter DeBoer tossed logic into the round file and made major line changes, hoping to neutralize the bombastic Broad Street Bullies.
For three periods it kept his team even with a 3-3 tie. In overtime Philly's Danny Briere ruined the fun with a slapshot goal at 4:36 of sudden death immediately after New Jersey had successfully killed a penalty and barely missed winning it themselves. The 4-3 triumph thrusts the Flyers up one game in the series yet based on the Devils first period dominance the final result suggests that a long series is in the making.
Unfazed by the sea-of-orange crowd, the visitors attacked relentlessly, outshooting Philly 15-6, while out-chancing them as well. The Garden Staters came away with only one goal -- Zach Parise from new liney Patrik Elias.
Parise's other new linemate was Dainius Zubrus which meant that Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk were similarly moved around like chessmen. While some Devils benefitted from the changes Kovalchuk suffered the most amid continued rumors that he is suffering from some undisclosed injury although he was involved in one Devils goal.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette vowed a more intense effort in the second period from a club that appeared rusty from a long lay-off since pulverizing Pittsburgh. Lavvy was rewarded when Slapsy Maxy Talbot found a loose puck ten feet in front of Martin Brodeur, but the Devils vet challenged and made the save. No such luck the second time around when the elusive Briere made no mistake on a breakaway after Devs D-man Peter Harrold was caught pinching.
There was a clear reversal in trend as Philly took over and took a 4-1 lead in shots and on the fifth one, Brodeur was caught behind the net. His clearing pass was intercepted and while Marty made the first stop nobody covered James van Riemsdyk who flung the puck over the sprawling goaltender; two Flyers goals in 37 seconds.
Worse still, a Devils penalty followed that could have been fatal.
"We had to make the kill," said coach DeBoer, "and then try for the next goal."
Text-book-like, late in the penalty-kill rookie Adam Henrique broke free, was fouled, forced a penalty and soon New Jersey had the man advantage.
Faster than you say Cam Janssen, New Jersey's power play instantly clicked on a shoot-in by Kovalchuk, coralled by Parise who instantly delivered a pass to Zajac camped in front of the Flyers crease. The deflection just barely pushed itself over the goal line by a half-inch. It marked Zajac's fourth red light of the playoffs and while the Devils next were under siege but escaped the middle frame tied, 2-2.
As they awaited the third period, fans could be forgiven for being uncertain which way the pendulum next would swing.
It swung in Philly's way as one Flyers shot hit Brodeur's left post but caromed out of danger. Next Andy Greene took a penalty and the Flyers dominated with Claude Giroux converting on the power play. The advantage was gained on a won face-off; a New Jersey bugaboo much of the game.
Shortly thereafter, Petr Sykora stunned the capacity crowd after his defenseman Bryce Salvador broke an enemy attack. The puck moved to David Clarkson who catapulted Petr Sykora on a breakaway. The Czech sniper fired a laser through Bryzgalov's five-hole and the up-and-down frenzy turned into FRENZY!
In one back-and-forth frenzy first Bryzgalov and then Brodeur lost their sticks. In another pile-up in front of Brodeur, the goaltender lost his mask causing a stoppage in play. Undaunted, the Flyers resumed their offensive and
van Riemsdyk had yet another breakaway but Marty beat him. The third period concluded with the Flyers swarming throughout the Devils zone but the buzzer ended the anxiety -- at least until overtime.
Almost immediately DeBoer's skaters found themselves in trouble again. Now it was defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who took a delay of game penalty by firing the puck over the glass. Philly pressure produced a goal by Briere but it was disallowed because of Briere's distinct kicking motion that deposited the puck beyond Brodeur's out-stretched stick. Given the new life, the Devils counterattacked and missed winning the game by inches only.
Inevitably, Philadelphia domination prevailed and the Flyers earned the win on Briere's second try -- a slapshot through a screen past the embattled New Jersey netminder. And this time it counted at 4:36 of the extra session.
Advantage Flyers with teams meeting again on Tuesday night in Philly.
Devils Playoff Central
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