In a pivotal Game 4, the Philadelphia Flyers showed signs of frustration and were out shot 43-22 in a 4-2 loss to the Devils at the Prudential Center tonight.
Dainius Zubrus registered a two-goal night, while Petr Sykora and Marek Zidlicky both had a goal and an assist in New Jersey’s third straight win in the series.
Martin Brodeur made 20 saves on his 40th birthday to give Jersey a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Claude Giroux assisted on Scott Hartnell’s opening goal and potted a short-handed tally for a two-point night. Kimmo Timonen and Max Talbot were the only other Flyers to record a point with helpers, as Timonen had the secondary assist on Hartnell’s goal and Talbot had the primary assist on Giroux’s.
Similar to Game 2, Ilya Bryzgalov was the only Flyer who apparently wanted to take part in playoff hockey, and his 39-save effort still wasn’t enough to make a difference.
“We’re letting Bryz play by himself,” Giroux said afterwards. “If it wasn’t for him, we would have got killed.”
Philly started to show signs of frustration and lack of composure during their third loss in the series including several boneheaded penalties. With Hartnell chasing a Devil down after being called for interference in the first period, Giroux’s cheap hit on Zubrus in the second period, and Sean Couturier’s horrendous clear in the defensive zone directly into the netting, it was clear the Flyers were letting the Devils’ hard work and defense get under their skin.
“It’s just more frustrating the way we’re playing,” Hartnell said. “We’re playing soft hockey. We’re playing almost scared to take a hit or make a play. We’re getting pushed off pucks way too easy and that leads to us more d-zone time.”
The Devils came out with more jump than the Flyers did and almost grabbed the 1-0 on a wrap-around attempt from Adam Henrique.
In the midst of Jersey’s early period surge, an odd-man rush led to a Sykora shot that Talbot blocked, but resulted in Bryzgalov dropping to the ice. While on his behind, Bryz gloved Henrique’s wrap-around attempt on the goal line to keep it scoreless.
New Jersey’s offensive surge continued for a few more minutes until a couple of Devils’ penalties resulted in an unsuspecting Flyers’ lead.
After a Travis Zajac interference minor was killed off by Jersey, Zidlicky was sent to the box for the same infraction. Seven seconds into the power play, Hartnell tipped a shot past Brodeur to give the Orange and Black the edge.
Giroux wristed a shot from the top of the circle with Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds in front of Jersey’s goaltender. While moving from the slot to the corner, Hartnell tipped the shot past Brodeur’s left leg pad for his third goal of the 2012 playoffs.
Less than two minutes later, Giroux extended the Flyers’ lead to two.
With Andreas Lilja in the box for tripping, Giroux and Talbot moved the puck from the defensive zone into the Devils’ zone. After Talbot moved the puck to Giroux at the Devils’ blue line, #28 found his way past Jersey’s defense and put a shot on Brodeur that hit the goalie’s stick before it bounced up and over the sprawled out netminder. As the disc trickled over the goal line for Giroux’s eighth tally of the 2012 playoffs.
The Flyers lead lasted all of 4:29 before a pair of tallies tied the game at two.
Later in the Lilja penalty kill, Sykora one-timed a shot off of Bryzgalov and in for his second goal of the playoffs.
Zidlicky threw a pass from the point to Sykora at the side of the net. In an act of desperation, Bryzgalov went into a split to try and block Sykora’s save. Unfortunately for Philly’s goalie, the Devil’s shot went off his right skate and over the goal line to release Lilja from the sin bin.
In the final two minutes of the period, Zidlicky redirected a pass in the slot past Bryz to even the score.
After Ilya Kovalchuk won a puck battle behind Philly’s net, he moved the disc around the boards to Bryce Salvador, who threw a pass to the slot. Pinching in from the point on the play, Zidlicky redirected the puck past Bryzgalov’s glove before the netminder could move over in time.
Hartnell put the Flyers a man down 23 seconds later with an interference minor that let the Devils start the second period on the power play.
Although the Orange and Black killed off the rest of Hartnell’s minor, the second period was dominated by the Devils.
With the first 11 shots of the middle stanza, New Jersey knocked on the door several times, but was denied by Bryzgalov to keep the game tied.
After he made a glove save on the goal line, and kept it out despite Steve Bernier whacking away at it for several seconds following the initial save, Bryzgalov provided another goal-line stand minutes later to keep it 2-2.
Later in the period, after a few chances from the Flyers, the Devils finally put home their third goal of the affair.
Shortly after a failed two-on-one with Danny Briere and Hartnell, Zubrus denied a Hartnell attempt in the crease that occurred moments later before he went down the ice and potted his second goal of the postseason later in his shift.
A two-on-one with Henrique and Sykora failed due to Sykora’s abillity to catch a pass in the slot, but the Devils gained control of the puck after the missed opportunity. In the midst of their surge, Henrique held the biscuit behind the net before he found an undefended Zubrus in the slot. The former Flyer capitalized on the advantage for a 3-2 Jersey lead with 2:13 remaining in the middle period.
The Orange and Black started to get a few more offensive chances after Zubrus’ goal, but were unable to carry any momentum into the final stanza due to an ill-advised penalty from Giroux.
With only four seconds left in the period, Giroux was sent to the sin bin for an illegal check to the head. Seconds after Zubrus moved the puck deep into the Flyers’ zone from Philly’s blue line, Giroux skated over and dropped a shoulder to the forward’s head.
“It was quick play. And hockey is a quick game,” Giroux said after the game. “I think I should be fine.”
Devils’ coach Peter DeBoer didn’t agree with Giroux.
“For me, it looks like the textbook hit that they’re trying to take out of the game,” said DeBoer about the questionable hit.
In the third period the Flyers showed more effort, but it still didn’t match the intensity of the Devils, as Zubrus put home an empty-net tally in the final minute to cap off the 4-2 Jersey win.
The Flyers hope to avoid elimination on Tuesday night when the clubs meet up at the Wells Fargo Center for Game 5.
Notes: This is the first time the Flyers have lost three straight playoff games since Games 2 through 4 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinals, which they lost 4-0…Giroux and Briere both had three giveaways…Hartnell, Briere, and Jakub Voracek finished minus-2…Matt Carle had a game-high 26:16 TOI…With the exception of the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Bruins, the Flyers have never comeback from being down 3-1 in a series. They were 0-3 in that series…The Flyers are now 1-4 this postseason in games where they score first. The only game they’ve won is Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins…The last time the Flyers have won Game 4 of a playoff series was the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks. In their last four series, Philly has lost Game 4 every series…For New Jersey, Ryan Carter was scratched because of an illness. Tim Sestito had four hits and a blocked shot in 6:51 TOI in Carter’s place.