NEWARK, N.J. - Facing the daunting and damning prospect of trailing in a playoff series for the first time this season, the Flyers left it to their usual playoff hero, Danny Briere, to kick them into gear in the third period.
Briere erased a 3-2 deficit with just under 10 minutes to play in regulation, sending the Flyers beyond regulation for the third time this spring.
But not even Briere's magic could deliver the Flyers a win in Game 4.
Alexei Ponikarovsky, taking a pass from Ilya Kovalchuk, snuck a putback through Ilya Bryzgalov's five-hole with 2 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in overtime to hand New Jersey a series-pivoting, 4-3, victory in front of 17,625 frothing fans at the Prudential Center.
It was the Flyers' first overtime loss in three postseason tries this season.
The Flyers are 13-19 all-time when dropping Game 3 of a series, regardless if they were leading or trailing at that point. Overall, they are 7-19 in a series when trailing by a two-games-to-one margin. In that case, the Flyers have battled back to knot the series in Game 4 exactly half the time (13-for-26).
With an extra day off in the series to rest and recuperate - particularly for forward Sean Couturier, who limped off the ice in the first period and did not return with a "lower-body" injury - both teams will have an opportunity to reevaluate.
Game 4 is not until Sunday night back in Newark at the Prudential Center.
Thursday's Game 3 was a matchup of seesawing momentum. Back and forth it went.
All appeared to start well for the Flyers in Game 3 - before New Jersey manhandled them for the final three quarters of the first period. After Brayden Schenn gave the Flyers a 1-0 edge on the power play in the opening 6:08, they managed just two shots for the rest of the period.
The Flyers are 1-4 when scoring the game's first goal in the playoffs. Inexplicably, they are 4-0 when the opponent scores first.
New Jersey owned the puck after Schenn's tally, scoring twice in a span of 20 seconds - once on the power play and once off a defensive breakdown - to take a 2-1 lead to the locker room at the first intermission. Patrik Elias and Kovalchuk's goals set a New Jersey franchise record for fastest goals scored in a playoff game, breaking a record held from a goma eon May 14, 2000, against the Flyers.
The Flyers' first period was so putrid that four of their six defensemen finished without a hit against a Devils team that spent most of the first 20 minutes circling and cycling around their net.
It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall in the Flyers locker room for Peter Laviolette's intermission message.
Back and forth. Predictably, it flipped in the second period, where the Devils have been outscored, 12-4, in these Stanley Cup playoffs. Matt Carle pinged the far side of the net on a slap shot in the first five minutes of the second period.
The Flyers outshot New Jersey, 9-2, in the second and even had a goal disallowed because of goaltender interference.
It was the Devils, though, who dominated to start of the third period. They posted the period's first six shots - Zach Parise's goal-producing stuff job on Ilya Bryzgalov being one of them - before the Flyers could recover.
Back and forth. The Flyers were finally able to swing the puck possession pendulum in their favor when their favorite playoff hero came to the rescue.