Devils know what they're getting into
NEWARK N.J. - The Devils had a chance to pick their playoff poison yesterday afternoon, and played it straight. Their reward is a date with a Flyers team that handled them pretty well this season, rather than a more favorable matchup with the Boston Bruins.
NEWARK N.J. - The Devils had a chance to pick their playoff poison yesterday afternoon, and played it straight.
Their reward is a date with a Flyers team that handled them pretty well this season, rather than a more favorable matchup with the Boston Bruins.
The Devils earned the second seed in the Eastern Conference and set up their fourth postseason meeting with the Flyers with a 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at Prudential Center, on Jamie Langenbrunner's empty-net winning goal with just 3.6 seconds remaining.
"As you can tell, we don't pick the teams," said Devils coach Jacques Lemaire, whose team won only one of six regular season games against the Flyers. "We just wanted to win and that's what happened. It's going to be a battle because we struggled against [the Flyers] all year. It's a good team. They proved it. [The Flyers are] well balanced.
"Definitely, we'll have to play better than we did during the season to be able to beat them."
Langenbrunner admitted that Flyers' 5-1 record in the season series - the Devils' only win was a 4-1 triumph on Dec. 12 at The Rock - was not misleading. The Flyers' physical play seemed to intimidate the Devils at times.
"They controlled us pretty well," Langenbrunner said. "They stomped us the first game [5-2 on opening night] and we didn't play well in their building [0-3]. We've got to understand what they do and be ready for that."
The Devils needed only to reach overtime yesterday to beat the Sabres for the second seed because they owned the tiebreaker with two more wins. That forced the Sabres to try to pull goaltender Patrick Lalime in the final 10 seconds of regulation, though the game was tied 1-1 and they were shorthanded.
Lalime, who played while Sabres' No. 1 goaltender Ryan Miller got the day off, never made it to bench as he collided with referee Steve Kozari on his way. While that was going on, Zach Parise quickly passed the puck to Langenebrunner, who fired it into the empty net from the blue line.
"I knew there wasn't a lot of time so I was trying to get it to Jamie as quickly as possible, but I didn't know the goalie was pulled," Parise said.
Knowing their 3-0-1 record against Boston this season, the Devils certainly must have been tempted to let the Sabres win, drop to the third seed, and face the sixth-seeded Bruins instead.
"Every shot, especially in a tie game, you could almost decide if you want to play them or not," goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "For a hockey player, it's not a good feeling.