Devils dominate Flyers, even series
ILYA BRYZGALOV was two-thirds of the way to sainthood in Philadelphia. But the Flyers' offense and defense simultaneously disappeared quicker than Jimmy Hoffa and crumbled under the pressure of New Jersey's relentless forecheck on Tuesday night.
ILYA BRYZGALOV was two-thirds of the way to sainthood in Philadelphia.
But the Flyers' offense and defense simultaneously disappeared quicker than Jimmy Hoffa and crumbled under the pressure of New Jersey's relentless forecheck on Tuesday night.
No Ilya Kovalchuk? No problem.
Without their leading scorer, the Devils rallied from a 1-0 deficit after being stymied by Bryzgalov in a futile second period with three third-period tallies to snatch a 4-1 win over the Flyers in Game 2.
Adam Larsson, David Clarkson and Travis Zajac scored three unanswered goals within 10 minutes of one another to shock the Flyers on home ice. Bryce Salvador added a shorthanded empty-netter with 2:51 to play.
The Flyers managed only 11 shots to New Jersey's 22 over the final two periods, producing nearly the exact opposite result of Sunday's Game 1. By the time 5 minutes remained on the clock, nearly a quarter of the Wells Fargo Center's once rambunctious crowd had headed into the South Philadelphia night.
Suddenly, the Flyers have a series on their hands.
"It's a hard way [to play]," coach Peter Laviolette said. "They were quicker, more competitive on the puck. It wasn't just the offense; it was three zones. There are times when a goaltender stands on his head like that and you're able to squeak one out. Oftentimes, it doesn't last or it doesn't hold up. In the end, the results are just."
The Devils managed to not only earn a 1-1 series split in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series, but also grabbed home-ice advantage as the series shifts 90 miles north on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Game 3 is Thursday night at Newark's Prudential Center. The Devils are 2-1 at "The Rock" this spring, but have just a 5-8 playoff record since moving to their gritty downtown location in 2007.
All-time, the Flyers are 17-15 in series in which they are tied 1-1 after two games. They are just 15-17 in subsequent Game 3's in that scenario.
Unbelievably, Game 2 was Martin Brodeur's first win in Philadelphia since Jan. 22, 2008, snapping an 0-8-1 drought at the Wells Fargo Center.
With two complete periods in the books, it appeared as if Brodeur would be the goat. Bryzgalov stopped everything the Devils could throw at him. There were probably even a few kitchen sinks missing in North Jersey.
The Flyers had just two shots in the second period. Claude Giroux, held without a point for just the second time this postseason, finally saved the Flyers from setting a dubious franchise record by registering their first shot of the second period with 1:27 left.
No Flyers team has ever gone an entire period in a playoff game without a shot. It was the Flyers' fewest shots in a full, 20-minute period in a playoff game since April 25, 2004, in Game 2 against Toronto in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Until Larsson opened the floodgates for the Devils, the Flyers were just one frame away from taking a two-game stranglehold to the road. That evaporated as quickly as Larsson's shot danced down the twine behind Bryzgalov.
"We just had to win one period in one game to have a 2-0 lead going into New Jersey," Matt Read said. "We didn't take advantage of the situation and we came out flat. We didn't give them the respect they deserved."
Read opened the scoring for the Flyers in the first 2:53, handing them a one-goal cushion after two separate whacks at a puck in front of Brodeur. It's amazing it lasted as long as it did.
Any semblance of the Flyers' aggressive system collapsed over the second half of the game - and the Flyers' skated off the chewed-up second-period ice to a chorus of boos from the home crowd. Yes, they were still leading at the point, though it didn't feel like it.
The Devils' desperation was apparent, likely knowing the Flyers are a perfect 18-0 in series when they have a two-games-to-none chokehold. Rather than recoil when being thwarted by Bryzgalov in the second period, New Jersey came out even harder in the third.
"They played an unbelievable game," Bryzgalov said. "They played the whole 60 minutes, they just kept coming and coming, pushing and pushing."
The Devils had outhit, outshot, and outmuscled the Flyers in their own building - all without their star player. Little of the blame could be levied on Bryzgalov's performance. There are only so many point-blank bullets one man can realistically be expected to stop in a period-and-a-half.
"Bryz was unbelievable," Jaromir Jagr said. "The way they played, they were in our zone for probably 18 minutes in the second period. It's tough to get shots when they're in our zone the whole time. They won all the battles. They got all the loose pucks. They played very well. We didn't play good at all. End of story."