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Danny Briere is credited for his offensive explosion in the postseason, but his defense leaves much to be desired. That was the case in Game 2 against the Devils.
It was the perfect time for the Devils to collapse. Already down 1-0 in the series and without superstar Ilya Kovalchuk, they fell down 1-0 early in Game 2. But something happened, as New Jersey dug deep and put together a huge effort in the face of adversity.
PHILADELPHIA -- The New Jersey Devils scored four goals in the third period, overcoming what was shaping up to be a dominant effort from Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov en route to a 4-1 beatdown in Philadelphia in Game 2. The win evens up the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal at 1-1 as the teams head up the New Jersey Turnpike for Game 3 on Thursday evening.
Matt Read opened the scoring for Philadelphia just 2:53 into the game, and it seemed like the Flyers were on their way to controlling the majority of another game. But after the goal, Philly seemed to sit back, allowing the Devils the opportunity to get back into the game with several chances in the latter half of the third period.
It didn't pay off for New Jersey in the second period as Bryzgalov turned aside all 12 shots that came his way. It looked as though the goaltender might have become the difference for the listless Flyers in the game, but New Jersey kept coming in the third period. A breakdown by the Philly forwards in a 4-on-4 situation allowed Adam Larsson a great chance to tie the game, which he did on a shot that beat Bryzgalov over the glove-hand shoulder.
Goals from David Clarkson and Travis Zajac opened the Devils lead to 3-1 as New Jersey kept pressing and Philadelphia kept sitting back, and although the Flyers were given a power play at the 15:35 mark, they couldn't take advantage as Bryce Salvador bounced a puck all the way down the ice and into an empty net.
4-1 Devils. Good night, Flyers. It's a new series, all tied up.
PHILADELPHIA -- Adam Larsson found his way into the Devils lineup in Game 2 thanks to an injury to star forward Ilya Kovalchuk. The rookie defenseman is playing in his first NHL playoff game, and nobody necessarily expected him to put a puck in the back of the net.
Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk were caught looking up ice, and when Dainius Zubrus wound up with the puck, it left Larsson with a prime chance to sneak down low, receive a pass and rip it over Bryzgalov's glove hand. The goalie was clearly screened on the play, but the Flyers' four-man unit deserves plenty of blame for allowing Larsson so much time and space to shoot.
The Devils weren't done with their third-period scoring, however. David Clarkson gave them the lead eight minutes later when both he and Zach Parise beat the entire Flyers defense flat-footed down low. Parise dished the puck off to Clarkson just in front of the goal crease, and Clarkson didn't miss, putting the puck into the back of the net.
Travis Zajac scored less than three minutes after the Clarkson goal to completely deflate the Wells Fargo Center crowd, as the Devils hold a 3-1 lead in the game.
PHILADELPHIA -- Ilya Bryzgalov has had a rocky ride as Flyers goaltender this season, this playoff year and even in the first game of this series vs. the Devils, but the Russian was phenomenal in the second period of Game 2. He was the only reason New Jersey failed to tie the score in the period, turning aside a total of 12 shots on goal.
The Flyers defense did a solid job of keeping roughly half of those shots to the periphery, but there was no doubt that New Jersey had the territorial advantage in the period. Without several key saves from Bryzgalov, many on second chance opportunities, the Devils would have tied the game or perhaps even taken the lead.
Philadelphia, on the other hand, went without a shot in the first 18:32 of the second period. They wound up with two shots on goal -- both from the outside -- in the period and just six total shot attempts.
New Jersey will almost certainly tie this game with another period like that, and the Flyers know they need to step up in the third period and put some pucks on Martin Brodeur. Wouldn't want the guy getting sleepy, now.
PHILADELPHIA -- The Devils picked up their play in the latter half of the first period of Game 1, but they couldn't beat Ilya Bryzgalov, and they headed to the dressing room at the first intermission down 1-0. Bryzgalov made 13 saves for the Flyers in period one, and Matt Read's goal just 2:53 in is the difference in the game thus far.
The Flyers controlled much of the early portion of the first period, keeping the Devils at bay with a mix of speed and aggressive play on the forecheck. But perhaps they were a little two aggressive, as New Jersey used two power plays -- primarily the second via a Kimmo Timonen hooking minor penalty -- to build some momentum and kick their game into gear.
Bryzgalov was certainly more solid than his New Jersey counterpart, but now that the Devils have found their footing in the hockey game, Philadelphia will have to match if they want to keep their lead.
Off a faceoff to the right of Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, Read picked up the puck in front of the net, danced around defenseman Mark Fayne and forced Brodeur out of his crease. Read's initial shot fell behind the net to Brayden Schenn, who dished it back out to Read for a tough angle shot. Brodeur was prone on the ice in front of his crease and couldn't make his way back to the net in time to make the save.
The Flyers killed two New Jersey power plays in the first 11:30 or so of the game. The Devils picked up several chances on those power plays but have been unable to sustain pressure for long periods of time.
At even strength, the Flyers are using their speed to thwart any New Jersey chances. The Flyers' checking line of Sean Couturier, Max Talbot and Eric Wellwood has been tasked with taking on the Devils' top line of Zach Parise, Patrik Elias and David Clarkson, and while you wouldn't expect that unit to keep the puck in the Devils' end, that's exactly what they've done. They've been tenacious on the forecheck and New Jersey's top line looks flat-footed in comparison.
PHILADELPHIA -- Ilya Kovalchuk will be out of the New Jersey Devils lineup in Game 2 at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday evening, and coach Peter DeBoer will send one of his blueliners up front to take his spot.
Peter Harrold, who played on the third pairing with Anton Volchenkov in Game 1 on Sunday, will likely join Stephen Gionta and Ryan Carter on the Devils' fourth line. Defenseman Adam Larsson, who was a scratch in each of the team's eight playoff games so far, will make his playoff debut in Harrold's spot on the third pairing.
The Devils will shift David Clarkson up on a line with Zach Parise and Patrik Elias as they hope to minimize the impact of Kovalchuk's absence. Here's a look at the full Devils lineup as we expect it in Game 2:
The Philadelphia Flyers, meanwhile, will go with the same lineup as they did in Game 1. It looks like this:
The New Jersey Devils returned home to Newark after Game 1 against the Flyers in Philadelphia on Sunday. When they returned to Philadelphia Monday evening for Game 2, Ilya Kovalchuk did not join them, and the team will be without its star forward as it tries to avoid falling into a 2-0 hole on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center.
The team announced before its morning skate Tuesday that Kovalchuk will miss Game 2 with a lower body injury, and that he's suffered with this injury since the first round. He's listed as day-to-day. Devils beat reporter Tom Gulitti reported Monday that Kovalchuk went for therapy on what's believed to be a lower back injury.
Kovalchuk did not look good in Game 1 against Philadelphia. He played an abnormally low 21:20 of total ice time in the game, and more surprising was the zero shots on goal he registered in that time. He was virtually invisible on the ice.
With Kovalchuk out, it looks as though Tim Sestito could get the nod. He won't play 21 minutes.
The Philadelphia Flyers can take control of their series against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.