Ponikarovsky Beats Bryzgalov In Overtime, Gives Devils 4-3 Win

Image Courtesy of The Associated Press

After a pair of failed power-play attempts in overtime, the Flyers let Alexei Ponikarovsky’s first goal of the 2012 playoffs be the game-winner in the Devils’ 4-3 victory tonight at the Prudential Center. The win gives Jersey a 2-1 series lead.

Ilya Kovalchuk jumped on the Flyers’ clear in the neutral zone and caught Philly’s skaters in a line change when he hit Ponikarovsky with a pass at the Orange and Black’s blue line. With only one defender back, the Devils’ forward decided to shoot rather than pass. After Ilya Bryzgalov denied his first shot, the former Los Angeles King jumped on his own rebound and put a backhander by the goalie’s glove for his first goal in the postseason since April 21, 2011.

With the addition of the primary assist on Ponikarovsky’s game-winner, Kovalchuk had a game-high three points with a tally and two helpers. Patrik Elias had a goal and an assist for a two-point game, while Marek Zidlicky recorded a pair of assists for a multi-point performance in the Devils’ third overtime win of the postseason.

In net for New Jersey, Martin Brodeur denied 25 of the Flyers’ 28 shots and looked shaky on a couple of occasions.

Danny Briere led all Flyers in points with his game-tying goal in the third period and an assist. Brayden Schenn opened the scoring in the first period and Matt Carle potted a goal in the middle stanza, while Wayne Simmonds led all Flyers with four shots on net.

Bryzgalov stopped 27 of 31 shots tonight, as he made some crucial saves throughout the tilt to give the Flyers a chance. Besides his first goal against Bryzgalov played big tonight, as he denied several breakaway attempts and odd-man rushes to keep the score close.

Although the Flyers showed more effort tonight than they did Tuesday, the club still didn’t show up for the entire contest. New Jersey had spans late in the first period and early in the third period where they controlled play, while Philly showed little hustle to try and change the Devils’ surges.

“We’re down 2-1, the pressure is on us,” said Claude Giroux after the loss. “There is no guy on this team that is going to quit. It’s going to be a wake-up call.”

The power play wasn’t much help to the Flyers again, as they went 1-for-5 with a pair of missed opportunities in overtime. Philly is only 2-for-16 in the series against the Devils including tonight’s performance.

“I think the power play won us a lot of games this year and tonight wasn’t the case,” Giroux said. “We have to do a better job.”

To make matters worse for Philadelphia, Sean Couturier left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury. The Flyers’ rookie played all of 3:59 in the opening stanza.

The Flyers struck first, but the Devils answered with a pair of tallies 20 seconds apart to leave the opening period with a 2-1 lead.

Just under five minutes into the game, Simmonds controlled the puck in the neutral zone after a brief Devils’ surge when he was tripped by Adam Henrique. In the latter stages of a power play that wasn’t getting many chances, it was Schenn that put home the tilt’s first goal.

Jaromir Jagr battled Mark Fayne behind Brodeur’s cage for the disc before he moved it to Briere. Turning and skating to his right, Briere threw a pass to Schenn in the middle of the circle, who put a wrister past Brodeur’s blocker to leave the goaltender staring at the puck over the goal line in confusion 6:08 into the contest.

Shortly after Schenn’s marker, Simmonds led an odd-man rush that ultimately failed before the Devils dominated the rest of the first period.

New Jersey cycled in Philly’s zone for several minutes, but failed to produce any noteworthy scoring chances before Braydon Coburn put the Devils on their first power play by tripping Dainius Zubrus.

It didn’t take Jersey long to tie the game, as Elias beat Bryzgalov 24 ticks into the man advantage.

Zidlicky found Elias in the circle furthest from the players’ benches before #26 wound up for a slap shot. The howitzer eluded the shot-blocking attempt from Carle and hit the inside of Bryzgalov’s blocker before it traveled to the back of the net for a tied game 12:33 into the affair.

Kovalchuk didn’t wait long to give Jersey the lead, as he took advantage of a misplay by Nick Grossmann 20 seconds after Elias’ tally.

As Ponikarovsky carried the puck from the Devils’ blue line to the Flyers’ zone, he concluded his rush with a dish to Travis Zajac. Although Coburn was in position to play Zajac, Grossmann rushed over to help his partner leaving the slot wide open in the process. Zajac assessed the situation and threw the biscuit into the slot to Kovalchuk. Left all alone feet in front of Bryzgalov, Kovalchuk blew a wrister past the helpless netminder’s glove for his first goal of the series.

Bryzgalov made a crucial save on Henrique minutes later after the Devils’ rookie undressed Grossmann at the Flyers’ blue line to keep it a one-goal disadvantage for Philly at the end of the first period.

In the middle stanza, the Orange and Black leveled the score at two with a goal from Carle.

Shortly after Bryzgalov made a huge save on another breakaway chance from Henrique, Carle scored on a one-timer from Jakub Voracek. After Scott Hartnell chipped the disc from the Devils’ blue line into Jersey’s zone, Voracek chased it down on the goal line and carried the biscuit behind the net before he found an oncoming Carle from the point. With a shot that beat Brodeur’s glove, Carle tied the game 4:44 into the second frame.

Minutes later, the Flyers continued their surge when Adam Larsson went to the sin bin for a high-sticking minor on Briere. Philly produced three shots on net and several scoring chances during the man advantage to keep their onslaught intact during the middle stage.

Late in the second period, Kovalchuk put Jersey a man down on a missed call from the refs. In New Jersey’s zone after a faceoff, Kovalchuk flipped the puck in the air and hit Matt Read’s stick before the disc traveled over the glass. Apparently, the officials missed the part of the play where the puck hit Read and sent Kovalchuk off for a delaying game minor.

Near the end of Philly’s man advantage, the Flyers had a goal disallowed due to a Schenn penalty. Although the Orange and Black found the back of the net, Schenn’s skate hit Brodeur’s leg to send the aging goalie to the ice and sent the teams to four-on-four action.

Neither team scored on the four-on-four session or the Devils’ brief power play that followed, as the Flyers entered the final stanza in a 2-2 tilt.

After the Devils dominated the start of the third period, Zach Parise snuck a shot by Bryzgalov to give Jersey a 3-2 lead with 12:31 left in regulation.

Parise possessed the puck through the Flyers’ zone until he was below the goal line, where he moved it cross ice behind Bryz’ net to Elias. With a quick pass from Elias right back to Parise, the Devils’ forward moved from below the goal line to the near post for a shot before Bryzgalov could move from post to post to put home his fourth tally of the 2012 postseason five-hole on Philly’s goaltender.

Although New Jersey continued their offensive pressure for the next few minutes, Briere, as usual, found a way to come up with a clutch goal to tie the game.

James van Riemsdyk took a wrister from the top of the circle that caused Brodeur to create an easily preventable rebound that Briere found at the side of the net. The former Buffalo Sabre banked a shot off of the goaltender’s back and in for his eighth goal of the playoffs with 8:56 remaining.

Neither team registered another goal in regulation to send the affair to overtime.

After the Flyers failed to convert on two power plays in the extra frame, Ponikarovsky put home his rebound to give the Devils a 2-1 series lead.

Philly hopes to even the series at two games apiece Sunday, as Game 4 takes place at the Prudential Center at 7:30 pm.

Notes: The Flyers dropped to 1-3 in games where they have scored first in the 2012 playoffs. It also drops them to 3-2 in games where they trailed after the first period…This is the Flyers’ first overtime loss in the postseason since the Boston Bruins won Game 2 of the clubs’ 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinals meeting…Both Hartnell and Andreas Lilja finished the game minus-2…In addition to his three points, Kovalchuk had a hit and two PIMS with a plus-2 rating in 19:29 TOI…Elias and Kovalchuk set a Devils’ playoff record for two fastest goals with their tallies seperated by just 20 seconds…Andy Greene had a game-high five blocked shots.