THEY STARTED filing out of the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday night at about the 6-minute mark, right after Travis Zajac scored the goal to put the Devils up by two. The talk of a Flyers sweep went with them.
There was a popular school of thought last summer when Paul Holmgren pushed the plunger and decimated the Flyers roster that offense was going to be a problem. For most of the season, it was not. In Tuesday's Game 2, it was as the Flyers slogged their way to a 4-1 loss.
With Mike Richards and Jeff Carter gone, the Flyers, it was thought, weren't going to have enough reliable scoring to make a serious playoff run. They entered the season having to replace the 59 goals the homegrown stars provided, plus another 19 that Ville Leino gave them.
But established stars Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell picked up the slack in the regular season with some assistance from new acquisitions Wayne Simmonds and Jaromir Jagr.
In the postseason, it has been the kids. Those wonderful first-year players who stopped acting like rookies sometime in December.
Matt Read scored the only goal for the Flyers last night. He was matched by Devils' rookie Adam Larsson, who scored early in the third to tied the game. The Flyers have gotten nine goals from rookies this postseason. The other 15 playoff teams have a total of 12 from their rookies. Let that sink in for a second.
On a disturbingly flat offensive night, Read's goal was the only highlight. It came after he missed a chance at a wide-open net, but stayed with the play and beat Marty Brodeur. Read, who scored 24 goals during the regular season, scored less than 3 minutes into the game and the place was jumping. A 2-0 series lead seemed imminent.
But then the Devils got their legs under them and closed the Flyers out of the offensive zone for most of the rest of the night. Danny Briere rang the post right after Read's goal, but that was basically it. Philadelphia had just two shots in the second period, none in the first 18 minutes, 31 seconds of the frame.
"It wasn't just the offense," Jagr said. "They were in our zone. It's tough to shoot on net when we're in our zone the whole time."
The Flyers haven't necessarily relied on Read, Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn for their offense in this postseason. Anything they've gotten from their rookies has usually been part of a larger offensive push when Briere and Giroux were up on their skates. That was not the case Tuesday night as the Flyers went 0-for-5 on the power play and are 1-for-11 in this series.
"Desperation," Briere said. "They just wanted it more than us. That's the thing we have to look at more than anything."
After Read's goal, it's likely that anyone among the 20,131 in attendance thought it would be the only Flyers goal of the game. They flattened Pittsburgh for most of the opening-round series and scored four times in the series opener against Jersey. But because of the adjustments made by the Devils, this series shifts to New Jersey a lot more interesting. The Flyers are 0-3 this postseason when they fail to score four goals or more.
"It's still 1-1," Jagr said, "but we have to learn how they play. We have to look at the tape."