Devils outwork Flyers, Even Series With 4-1 Win

Image Courtesy of The Associated Press

In Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series, the Philadelphia Flyers mysteriously showed little to no desire to win tonight’s affair, and the New Jersey Devils muscled their way to a 4-1 road victory.

David Clarkson scored his first of the 2012 playoffs with 8:43 left in regulation to give the Devils a 2-1 edge.

New Jersey’s #23 found Zach Parise alone in the slot, but couldn’t beat Ilya Bryzgalov due to a poke check from the Flyers’ goaltender. After Bryzgalov broke up the play, Clarkson gained control of the disc at the bottom of the circle and beat Philly’s goalie before he jumped on top of the cage in celebration.

Goals from Travis Zajac and Bryce Salvador followed, while Martin Brodeur stopped 19 of 20 shots tonight including nine in the third period.

With Ilya Kovalchuk out of the line-up and Brodeur apparently off his game due to the Flyers’ net presence in Game 1, the only way the Devils could have beaten Philadelphia tonight was if they showed more hustle than the Orange and Black.

That’s exactly what happened, as Jersey dominated the final 40 minutes of the contest due to their ability to prevetn Philly from controlling the puck in the offensive zone.

Matt Read notched the Flyers’ lone goal, while Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds assisted on the marker in Philly’s poor performance.

The Flyers look to regain home-ice advantage in the series on Thursday, as the clubs engage in Game 3 at the Prudential Center.

Philadelphia’s effort tonight looked completely different than those from the Pittsburgh series or Game 1. Instead of starting the tilt poorly and dictating play for the final 45 minutes or so, the Flyers instead scored first and let New Jersey out hustle them for the final two periods.

“We had a tough time getting in the zone,” said Jaromir Jagr after the lost. “Even when we got in, they were quick on the loose pucks. That’s the answer, they were just quicker on the loose pucks. Not only on the power play, but 5 on 5. They looked fresher.”

Bryzgalov’s best game of the postseason went to waste, as the Flyers’ netminder denied 31-of-34 including 12 in the middle stanza, where he kept the Flyers’ 1-0 advantage intact.

“Bryz was phenomenal tonight, but we have to do a better job in front of him,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “We were not skating the way we needed to be, but I don’t think it was because of the fact that we were relying on him to win a game for us.”

Unfortunately for Bryz, his teammates didn’t improve their play in the final 20 minutes.

After the first 20 minutes, the Flyers found themselves with a 1-0 lead despite the Devils posting four more shots on net.

Both teams produced offensive presssure in the game’s opening minutes, but thanks to the work of Read and the clumsiness of Brodeur the Orange and Black grabbed the lead.

A pass from Simmonds in the corner to Schenn at the bottom of the nearest circle led to a no look, backhanded pass to Read just feet away. Read showed patience with the puck and let go of a shot from the other side of the ice that hit the outside of the net and led to a rebound.

Schenn picked up the disc behind the net while Brodeur struggled to stand back up. Schenn hit Read with a pass before the player locked out of Calder consideration threw the disc towards Brodeur, who failed to glove down the shot on his knees for Read’s third goal of the 2012 playoffs.

After Danny Briere hit the near post on a chance moments later, James van Riemsdyk crashed the net for a loose puck which ultimately led to a scrum after the whistle. Somewhere in the mess, the refs pinned JvR with a slashing call to give Jersey the first power play of the tilt.

Philly killed off the man advantage, as well as a Kimmo Timonen hooking call minutes later, while they failed to find the back of the net on a Stephen Gionta slashing call shortly afterwards.

Luckily for the Flyers, Salvador knocked Schenn to the ice away from the puck with no time left on the clock for a power play to open the middle frame. The Orange and Black couldn’t score their first power-play goal on their second man advantage of the contest.

Bryzgalov kept the Flyers lead intact for the remainder of the second period, as the Devils out shot Philly 12-2 in the middle stanza. Making a pair of big saves while Briere sat in the box early in the period, Bryzgalov stopped numerous chances from point blank and saw every shot through traffic to force the Devils to leave the second period empty-handed.

In the final 20 minutes, the Devils earned the victory with four goals.

Just over three minutes into the third stanza, Adam Larsson, who dressed tonight due to Kovalchuk’s absence, walked in and beat Bryzgalov high glove side. After a rebound, the puck sat in the circle for a few seconds before Dainius Zubrus jumped on it and moved the disc to the oncoming Larsson. The rookie d-man let go of a shot from the middle of the circle for his first-ever playoff tally.

“Down a goal, third period, and it was huge,” Devils’ head coach Peter DeBoer said of the rookie’s goal.”I feel great for Larsson. He’s been out a few games, and he responded.”

A little over eight minutes later, Clarkson gave New Jersey the lead before Zajac scored again shortly afterwards for a 3-1 advantage.

Zajac initiated the sequence of events that led to his fifth goal of the postseason with a backhander from the slot before Gionta did the same exact thing with a rebound from Zajac’s bid. Gionta’s shot trickled behind the goal line along the side of the net, where Zajac picked it up and moved across the back of the net to beat Bryzgalov in a race to the far post.

Salvador’s empty-net tally came with 2:51 left to seal the win. Zubrus was in the box for interference and the blueliner’s swat managed to roll all the way into the empty net.

Notes: Tonight marks the first time van Riemsdyk went minus-3 in a game since the Flyers’ 7-0 beating against the New York Rangers on March 6, 2011…Eric Wellwood had a game-high four shots on net, as he tied four different Devils had just as many shots on net (Parise, Adam Henrique, Marek Zidlicky, and Peter Harrold)…The Flyers didn’t score a goal on the power play since they went 0-for-1 in their 2-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on April 5th. It’s the first time they failed to convert in a game with multiple power-play chances since they went 0-for-5 in their 4-3 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators on March 31st…The Flyers’ two shots on net in the second period is the least amount of shots they have produced for a single period in regulation throughout the 2012 playoffs…Despite losing the game, Bryzgalov was still the first star of the game. Clarkson was the second and Parise was the third.