Devils-Flyers: A Nifty Birthday Present for Marty
Thursday, February 23, 2017
By Stan Fischler
As birthday presents go, an SUV or a set of 40 golf clubs would have seemed appropriate for Martin Brodeur.
But since none were immediately available, the Devils eternal goaltender was more than grateful to accept a victory – and a secondary assist – at The Rock on Sunday night for his four-oh milestone mark.
“It’s a great night, the boys played really hard in front of me,” Marty said. “We’re putting a lot of pressure on the Flyers and we’re working really hard.”
The 4-2 triumph over Philadelphia in Game Four not only pleased the capacity crowd, but also catapulted New Jersey to a three-games-to-one advantage over the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Game Five will be Tuesday night in Philadelphia and nobody on the Devils side is saying that the series is in the bag.
“We have to do more of the same,” Brodeur said. “Philly is a tough place to play. We just need to keep it simple and stay out of the penalty box.”
Zach Parise: “(Three-games-to-one) is better than two-one. We know we still have a lot of work to do. We like the way we’re playing right now and it’s working.”
It wasn’t coming off too well early in the game when Philly jumped into a two-zip lead on a power play goal and then a shorthander.
“We just had to stick with our game plan,” explained coach Peter DeBoer. “And everything worked out the way we hoped it would.”
Three key goals proved to be turning points. The first was Petr Sykora’s power play tally late in the first that brought the Devils to a 1-2 deficit. That was followed by Marek Zidlicky’s tally that enabled DeBoer’s skaters to exit the period tied at two.
“We made it 2-2 before the first period ended,” Parise said, “and I’m sure that was deflating for them. It was huge for us.”
But no red light was more illuminating than the game-winner. Dainius Zubrus, a horse throughout for the winners, delivered at 17:47 of the second period.
After a botched two-on-one, Sykora kept the puck in the zone and Adam Henrique collected the loose rubber in the right corner.
The rookie forward then dished the rubber to Zubrus alone in front of the Philly cage. With the Flyers defense nowhere to be found, Zubrus snapped the puck past Ilya Bryzgalov’s right arm at 17:47.
“We forechecked well,” explained Zubrus, “and Adam gave me a perfect pass. I didn’t want to waste any time and got it off as fast as I possibly could.”
Certainly, the script was less than enthusiastic from the get-go. After a strong opening by the home club forced Flyers coach Peter Laviolette to call a timeout, Philly scored a pair of goals in under two minutes.
Rather collapse under the pair of disappointments, New Jersey rallied for a comeback pair.
The turnabout began with Jersey capitalizing on the power play that previously had failed.
This time, Travis Zajac organized the play by winning the puck in the left corner of the Flyers zone. The Devils center then sent a crisp pass to Zidlicky at the right point.
The defenseman then spotted Sykora at the right post and rifled the rubber to him. Petr redirected the biscuit off Bryzgalov’s right skate and into the net for the goal at 13:14.
For the even-strength tying goal, Ilya Kovalchuk – along the right boards in the Philly zone – passed the puck to Bryce Salvador at the left point.
While Zidlicky stealthily moved behind the Flyers defense, Salvador dispatched the pass to his fellow defenseman, who deflected it home at 18:09.
“Philly came out and scored two big goals but we didn’t get frustrated,” Salvador said. “The team that’s going to be the most composed will have the most success.”
The topsy-turvy turn of events made the upcoming second period as difficult to predict as the hay count in a haystack.
But the Devils continued to overwhelm the Flyers with a preponderance of shots and eventually it paid off with the Zubrus goal late in the second frame.
Precisely how Philadelphia plans to get back into the series remains to be seen, but a couple of Flyers stars insisted that the series is far from over.
“This club has come back before from three-one deficits,” asserted Danny Briere of the Flyers, “and there’s no reason why we can’t do it again.”
Scott Hartnell: “We are playing soft hockey. It’s kind of blah out there. We aren’t making plays like we used to.”
The game had its rough moments.
With four seconds left in the second frame, Claude Giroux elbowed Zubrus in the head, drawing a two-minute minor but the big shook it off.
“I feel fine,” Zubrus said. “I saw the doctors and a few minutes (after the hit) I knew I was okay to go back in.”
Zubrus returned to the ice with his teammates for the start of the third period, seeking to preserve the one-goal advantage.
The Devs limited Philly in the final frame and their persistent work in the Flyers zone resulted in a drawn penalty to Kimmo Timonen at 16:24, allowing New Jersey to eat up valuable time.
With the Flyers net empty in the final minute, Zubrus sealed the victory, fighting off Briere’s hook to place the puck in the vacant cage at 19:16. The birthday goalie picked up the secondary assist.
“The boys wished me a happy birthday in the morning,” Brodeur concluded.
And his teammates gave him a nice present later that night!