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Inside the Flyers: Flyers overcome slow start

Good news for Flyers fans: The Orange and Black can take off a full period and still win a playoff game.

Falling behind Sunday was familiar territory for the Flyers, who rallied to win Game 1 in overtime. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)
Falling behind Sunday was familiar territory for the Flyers, who rallied to win Game 1 in overtime. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)Read more

Good news for Flyers fans: The Orange and Black can take off a full period and still win a playoff game.

Credit their irrepressible attack. Credit the fact that New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur is showing his age. Credit their legs for regaining some spring after six days off between games.

"We probably were not in a game mode. Probably was in practice mode," Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said about his team's clunker of a first period, which they overcame in a dramatic 4-3 overtime win over the Devils on Sunday at the percolating Wells Fargo Center.

While the Flyers had nothing but practice, practice, practice during the week, the Devils were gaining momentum by winning overtime decisions in Games 6 and 7 of their conference quarterfinals against Florida.

They carried the momentum into Sunday's first period, taking the game's first 11 shots, scoring an early goal, and finishing with a 15-6 shots advantage in the opening 20 minutes.

"They come out hard," said Bryzgalov, who kept the Flyers within striking distance with a strong opening period. "And we were a little bit unprepared, again probably in a practice mode."

"It was good to get through the first period and only be down, 1-0," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said.

All week, Laviolette was asked about how the layoff would affect his team.

"The truth of the matter is, you don't really know," Laviolette said after the Flyers raised their record to 2-0 in overtime games this postseason. "You don't know whether your team is going to come out jumping, or whether it's going to take a bit.

"Nobody liked the first period. The players didn't like it, I didn't like it, the fans didn't like it," he added. "We're not going to be successful playing that way."

The Flyers can use the layoff as an excuse, but the fact is they have been slow starters all season. In just four of their last 55 regular-season games have they managed to have a lead in the first 10 minutes.

So falling behind Sunday was familiar territory.

"We're going to have to definitely keep figuring out ways to address it," said winger James van Riemsdyk, whose breakout game rekindled memories of last year's playoffs. "We keep winning games, which is good, but we've got to get out to a better start."

After New Jersey took the first 11 shots and spent an inordinate amount of the first 10 minutes in the offensive end, the Devils started to look weary. The Flyers outshot them the rest of the way, 36-15.

"They were fresh, and it showed," Brodeur said. "It was a little hard for us to play the last two periods and overtime. We came through a tough series against the Panthers, and we're coming back quick. Now we have a little more than 48 hours to rest up and get ready for Game 2 [on Tuesday]."

That's the Devils' view.

The Flyers' view is, well, a little different. They say they dusted off the cobwebs of a long layoff and will be ready to play a full 60 minutes Tuesday - or longer, if needed.

"I thought the guys did a great job of getting the fire they needed to be successful," Laviolette said. "[People] ask, 'Would you rather have the time off, or would you rather get right back into it?' I think the time off was good for us, and now that we're through it and were able to come out on the winning side, I'm glad it's past us - and we can look forward to Game 2, where we can be sharper."

"That was embarrassing," center Claude Giroux said. "I mean, we can't come out like that. It's not acceptable. We were lucky enough to have Bryz shutting the door. ... We need to get ready for Game 2. It's easy to say that we haven't played for a week, but at the same time we've got to be ready mentally. We had another comeback. But we've got to start having the lead and keeping it."

They had a late 3-2 lead before Bryzgalov allowed a softy to Petr Sykora, knotting the score with 8:38 left in regulation.

A team with less fortitude would have folded and pointed fingers.

A team with a softer makeup would have collapsed after a disallowed overtime goal - taken away from Danny Briere because he kicked it into the net - kept the Devils alive.

This Flyers team, as shown in the quarterfinal upset of the Stanley Cup-favorite Penguins, does not lack for grit.

Even if it can't seem to get the first period right.