It seemed that both the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers were in the giving mood Sunday night to help goaltender Martin Brodeur's celebrate his 40th birthday. The netminder's teammates thoroughly outplayed the Flyers during the entire night, and though no doubt putting forth some kind of effort, the visitors couldn't match New Jersey's intensity in a 4-2, Game 4 defeat.
After being outworked by the Devils early in the contest, Philadelphia almost miraculously took a 2-0 lead when Scott Hartnell redirected a Claude Giroux shot past Brodeur on a power play, then Giroux beat two Devils' defenders and Brodeur while getting hacked the whole way for a short-handed goal.
But that was pretty much all of the fight from the Flyers for the rest of the game. The only one who really seemed to care was Brodeur's counterpart in net, Ilya Bryzgalov, who almost single-handedly kept his team in the game.
Even if they didn't deserve it.
New Jersey kept forcing play and tied up the score with two quick goals of their own late in the period, then got the game-winner from ex-Flyer Dainius Zubrus late in the middle frame. Zubrus later added an empty-netter with Bryzgalov pulled in the closing minute of regulation to close out the scoring in the triumph.
The night went much like Game 2 of the series. With a chance to take a 2-0 lead, Philadelphia was vastly outplayed last Tuesday. That night, the Devils outshot the Flyers by a 35-20 margin, and they also led in missed shots, 12-5. Throw in the fact that Philly skaters blocked 23 shots while Jersey players only needed to block 12, and the lopsided 70-37 margin between the shots attempted by each club is very indicative of which team had possession of the puck for the majority of the game and which end of the ice the action was taking place.
While Game 3 was a much more even 59-46 total -- again in the Devils' favor in a 4-3 overtime victory -- Sunday night's Game 4 was another in which the ice was tilted for N.J.
The Devils put 43 shots on goal, Philadelphia needed to block 10 New Jersey shots, and the Devs also missed 11 shots for a total of 64 pucks sent towards the Flyers' net. Conversely, Philly's amounts were much more modest. 22 shots on goal, with just six shots that NJ was required to block and with five shots that missed the net for a total of 33 shot attempts.
The disparity in play was created once again with a furious Devils' forecheck, one that forced Philadelphia to turn the puck over 20 times, while the more disciplined New Jersey players had just five of their own. The turnover parade led to a decided advantage for the home team in territorial play, and long stretches for the Flyers being pinned in their own zone and in defensive mode.
The numbers were absolutely indicative of the discrepancy in puck possession by the teams, making for a rather quiet night for Brodeur to enjoy his moving into the next decade of his life. Although he was called upon to stand on his head to pull games out in previous postseason meetings, the future Hockey Hall-of-Famer faced a light attack on Sunday.
With long stretches of shotless time -- he went nearly 17 minutes of play without seeing a single Flyers' shot after Giroux's first-period goal in which he won for the seventh time in 10 postseason contests -- Brodeur could have enjoyed some of his birthday cake had he placed some on top of his net in place of the water bottle.
It truly was that type of night, one in which Brodeur was given a huge gift on his special day.