Wow, were the Flyers bad on Tuesday night.
A team built on emotion showed little.
A group schooled in aggression rolled over.
A Flyers team that is better than the New Jersey Devils, and that got a long stretch of great goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov, nonetheless finds itself hip-deep now in a playoff series in which it has surrendered the home-ice advantage. Such are the consequences of a 4-1 loss at home that was truly shocking for the Flyers -- not necessarily for the result but for their complete absence of a pulse for most of the evening.
At the end of the second period, as the Flyers left the ice to a low rumble of boos from the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center, the Devils had to have been wondering exactly what it was going to take. Playing without injured start Ilya Kovalchuk, they had just dominated the Flyers for about the first 19 minutes of the period and were still trailing by 1-0.
The turnaround in the game had been stunning. The Flyers came out trailing sparks. Rookie Matt Read scored just 2 minutes, 53 seconds into the game, and the Flyers' pressure remained relentless for several minutes after that. But a couple of penalties stopped their momentum, and they could not get it back. It is hard to understand how it could happen -- dominating one minute, paralyzed the next -- but there it was.
The second period was as one-sided as most college football games in September. The only reason Flyers survived was goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, our current favorite child of scorn. Whatever your opinion, you have to acknowledge this much: when the Flyers have needed him the most -- as things began to crumble against Pittsbrugh; in the first period of Game 1, when the Flyers were shaking off a week's worth of rust; in the second period Tuesday night -- the guy has been very good.
And, yes, your ears did not deceive you. The chant from the crowd was "Bryz...Bryz...Bryz..." And, yes, it sounds as rhythmic as it reads, which is not at all.
The Flyers did not get a shot in the second period until 1:27 remained -- when they had 6 men on the ice during a delayed penalty call. They finished the period with two shots. And the question in everyone's head for the next 17 minutes, as they cleaned the ice, was about what kind of carryover there might be in the third period.
Would the Flyers snap out of it?
Would the Devils snap out of frustration?
The answers: no and no.
The Devils finally tied the score, in a 4 on 4 situation, when Adam Larsson fired a wrist shot into the top corner of the net, high to Bryzgalov's glove side. After which, the Flyers did wake up a bit and the game was much more even. At the same time, the Devils still had the best of the chances as the third period began to bleed away -- and then it happen. On another New Jersey assault, Bryzgalov did a nice job poking a puck away from Zach Parise, but David Clarkson banged in the rebound.
The Devils had a 2-1 lead that they thoroughly deserved. Then, at 14:01, Travis Zajac made it 3-1. Bryce Salvador scored again later, into an empty net.
And now comes the challenge for the Flyers.