Long before the Flyers skated onto the Wachovia Center ice, they were feeling confident about playing New Jersey without Marty Brodeur in net.
By rights, they should have turned the confidence into a two-point night. But they weren't expecting a misplayed puck from their own goalie turning into a game-tying goal with 1 minute, 30 seconds left or a turnover by defenseman Andrew Alberts becoming an overtime game-winner.
But that was what happened.
After taking a one-goal lead with 4:28 left in the third period, the Flyers wound up with a single point in a 3-2 loss to the Devils last night.
It was not what they were counting on.
They were also not counting on having to finish the game without two of their top players - Simon Gagne, who left in the second period with dehydration, and Kimmo Timonen, who left in the third with a shoulder injury.
Having Gagne go off inexplicably led to speculation that he might have suffered a head injury. Gagne, however, said he had what he thinks is a bug and had not been feeling well since the day before. Fatigue and dehydration can be symptoms of persistent concussion symptoms. In fact, last year after Gagne's second concussion in November, the Flyers described his symptoms as being "from severe dehydration." However, both Gagne and general manager Paul Holmgren said the symptoms last night were not related to last season's concussions.
"I just need to rest right now," Gagne said. "We've got a day [today]. I don't know if we're going to practice, but I'll definitely be OK for the game [tomorrow at Carolina].
"I just didn't feel very good the last few days. I don't know if it's the flu or a bug, but I felt a little bit sluggish [yesterday] morning and the same thing in the warmup. I played the first, and in the second I felt like I was running on an empty tank. So we put some fluid in me and I feel a little bit better."
Timonen also shrugged off his injury and said he would be ready for tomorrow's game.
That is good news for the Flyers, but it doesn't soften the fact that they had a one-goal lead with 4 1/2 minutes to play, were on the power play, and couldn't put the game away.
Just after a penalty to Brian Gionta expired, Biron played a puck toward the corner and right to Gionta. Gionta got the puck up to Patrik Elias, who fired and put the puck through Biron's legs.
"Gionta was coming out of the box and they dumped the puck," Biron said. "I went to play the puck, but it bounced away and went in that area where I can't touch it. I waited for it to cross over the line, but by the time it got there I really didn't know who was behind me, so I played it to the corner. It was the wrong side to play it. And the puck ended up in the back of the net."
During the overtime, Alberts misplayed a puck up the wall. Zach Parise got the puck and passed to Elias, who skated to the net and ended the game with a backhander.
"That last play is just a blatant turnover," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "I didn't see anything wrong with the effort, the intensity. The guys played hard, they battled hard. With a lead like that, we should have put it away.
"I didn't get a chance to talk to Marty yet," Stevens said of the game-tying goal. "The puck got the length of the ice. It should have been a routine play and it wasn't. We work on that every day. There is not a day we get on the ice and don't work on exchanges [between goalies and defensemen]. That should be as automatic as reaching for the brake at a red light."
Even without Brodeur, Devils hockey is dull. The first period was a scoreless sleeper.
The Flyers finally got a goal in the second period on the power play. After a flurry of shots on Devils goalie Scott Clemmensen, Bryce Salvador tried to clear the puck through the middle but sent it to Timonen at the blue line. Timonen fired and beat Clemmensen for the 1-0 lead.
The Devils tied the game on a play in which Jamie Langenbrunner sat on one of Biron's legs in the crease and kept him from moving when Parise shot. The officials thought nothing of the interference and the score went to 1-1. The score stayed knotted until late in the third period when Scottie Upshall put the Flyers up on a power-play goal. Upshall shot the puck into the crease from the side of the net and it went in off Salvador for a 2-1 lead. Then, just like the last game, the score was tied late. Elias scored the tying goal and then won it 2:46 into overtime.
"We work on this in practice, just trying to keep it simple," Biron said. "We can't be afraid to go out and make the simple plays. There are the few instances where the puck is not going the right way." *