DANNY BRIERE is not normally a participant in the Flyers' pregame, two-touch soccer warmup drill in the bowels of an arena, but he proved on Sunday afternoon that his foot-eye coordination is second to none.
Briere clearly kicked a puck past Martin Brodeur just 2:13 into overtime, delivering what many thought was the Flyers' first home playoff overtime game-winner since June 2, 2010. They had lost three home overtime playoff games in a row, including Chicago's Stanley Cup-clinching win in Game 6 in 2010.
For some teams, a disallowed playoff overtime goal would be enough to seesaw the momentum. Not the Flyers. Their celebration was quick and no player was skating off the ice toward the locker room to bask in the glory of a Game 1 win.
In fact, Briere had a sly smile on his face - not because he had just scored, but because he knew his kicking motion probably was distinct enough to warrant an overturn of the call on the ice.
"The referee immediately skated over to me and told me that it looked like it was kicked in," Kimmo Timonen said. "So, I knew it was going to be pretty close. It's always a tough break, but the way we played the overtime, we were hungry and we wanted to win. I wasn't really worried about it."
There was little doubt when Briere's slap shot from the slot dribbled through Brodeur's five-hole 2:23 later. James van Riemsdyk said there was chatter on the Flyers' bench about staying "even keeled" during the quick review in the NHL's War Room in Toronto.
"You can't get too high or too low in those situations," van Riemsdyk said, "You never know if you're going to have to play."
Devils star Ilya Kovalchuk, who finished the regular season with 83 points in 77 games, was held to zero shots and points in 21:20 of work in Game 1.
Kovalchuk is in the second year of a 15-year, $100 million deal with the Devils.
Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin was also held pointless by the Flyers' checking line of Sean Couturier, Max Talbot and Eric Wellwood in Game 1 of the first round.
"It's a tough one, but it's the first one," Kovalchuk said. "We know how to play against those guys."
For the Flyers, it may just be as simple as shutting down Kovalchuk. In New Jersey's three wins against the Flyers this season, Kovalchuk collected eight points. He has zero points in their four losses.
From the second the puck dropped, Flyers fans mockingly began chanting, "Mar-ty, Mar-ty" to try to get to unflappable future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur.
By the end of regulation, a few fans were probably ready to turn on Ilya Bryzgalov after a weak, game-tying breakaway goal from Petr Sykora with 8:38 to play.
The reality is that Bryzgalov was neither flashy nor brilliant, but he made enough saves for the Flyers to eke out another win. Bryzgalov stopped more shots (14) in the first period than he faced in the second, third and overtime periods (11).
"I thought that Bryz had a heck of a first period when we weren't sharp," coach Peter Laviolette said. "I thought that we walked out of that period [trailing] 1-0, and he had made some saves, I think we probably gave up seven or eight quality chances, we just weren't sharp, and then it flip-flopped the other way. He was sharp when we needed him to be because we needed to be better with what we were doing."
The Flyers are 36-37 all-time in overtime playoff games . . . Defenseman Nick Grossmann returned to the lineup after missing Games 5 and 6 against Pittsburgh with a concussion. Grossmann skated just 16:26 in the win, well below his first-round series average of 20:50 . . . Pavel Kubina was a healthy scratch in favor of Grossmann . . . Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren would not reveal when defenseman Andrej Meszaros is due to see his doctor again, in order to be cleared for contact after lower-back surgery on March 21. Meszaros has been skating with the Flyers for more than a week.
"They wouldn't do it twice in Philly, that's for sure."
- Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, on the possibility of the Flyers' second overtime goal being disallowed.
Read his blog, Frequent Flyers, at www.philly.com/frequentflyers.