Tonight’s game ran me through the gamut of emotions. I went from excited to mad literally minute after minute. But the Devils never got down, and it was Mr. Dependable, Zach Parise, who helped put the Devils ahead for good. It was an exciting game, and now the Devils head to Philadelphia with the series tied, 1-1.
1. Dainius Zubrus’ Game-Winning Goal
Tied at three in the third period, the Devils began to slowly put more and more pressure on the Philadelphia defense. The first line finally cashed in on the pressure, with Zubrus scoring the game-winning goal at 15:56 of the third period. Zubrus took control of the puck behind the net, and skated the puck out. He curled to the front and put a backhanded shot on Brian Boucher. The Flyers’ goalie made the initial save, but Parise and Zubrus found the puck in front. Parise used the blade of Zubrus’ stick to put the shot top-shelf for Zubrus’ first goal of these playoffs.
2. Chris Pronger’s 4-on-3 Powerplay Goal
With the Flyers down, 3-2, in the second period, Devils’ defenseman Andy Greene took an interference penalty. With Ilya Kovalchuk and Darroll Powe already in the box for roughing, the Flyers had a 4-0n-3 powerplay. With the team only 1-for-5 on the man advantage, this represented their chance to get back to even. With Greene in the box, Mike Richards and Kimmo Timonen played pitch and catch, looking for an opportunity to shoot. Timonen fired a shot from the top of the circles that Pronger deflected past Martin Brodeur for his second goal of the playoffs.
3. Brodeur Stones Ian Laperriere In The Third Period
Brodeur made a game-saving stop on Ian Laperriere at 11:10 of the third period. Daniel Carcillo stripped White of the puck in the Flyers offensive zone, and rushed up the ice. He drove the net, but his attempt was swatted away. The loose puck came to the side of the net, and Laperriere received a pass from a Flyer in front of the net. He tried to one-time the puck past Brodeur, but the Devils goalie stood tall and made the save.
4. Devils Kill Three Straight Flyers Powerplays
In the second period, the Devils faced three straight penalty-kill opportunities. It started with a minor to Greene for high-sticking, then Kovalchuk went to the box for slashing. The trip was complete when Colin White was sent off for interference. The Devils killed off all three attempts, keeping the game scoreless and shutting down a dangerous Philadelphia powerplay.
5. Zach Parise Shorthanded Tally
The Devils, who couldn’t manage to score until the third period Wednesday night, got the crucial first goal on Philadelphia’s powerplay. With Kovalchuk in the box for elbowing, Pronger attempted to pass the puck to Matt Carle. Carle couldn’t handle the pass, and fanned on a shot attempt. Patrik Elias chased down the puck and sent a saucer pass to Parise, springing him free. Parise went to the backhand, roofing the puck over Boucher for his first goal of these playoffs.
Biggest Matchup: Goaltending:
Coming into this series, I believed that Boucher was a guy who hit a hot streak but couldn’t perform under pressure. Well, count me among those fans he’s made look stupid. Boucher had another strong night, stopping 28 shots in the loss. Unlike Wednesday night, the Devils challenged Boucher, and the Flyers’ goalie answered the call. The Flyers still lost, but without Boucher in net, it would have been a 10-goal game.
Brodeur was as good as Boucher, if not better. Through two games, it seems Brodeur has his playoff legs under him. He’s been making incredible saves, including the one mentioned above. But that wasn’t his only nice save tonight. Brodeur was there to stone most of the Flyers’ great scoring chances. Two of the three goals he allowed tonight were perfect deflections on the powerplay. Other than that, he was sparkling. If Brodeur continues to play this way, he may steal this series away from the Flyers.
Things I Liked:
1. The First Two Devils Lines
Finally, Devils’ coach Jacques Lemaire put together his two best scoring lines. The ZZ Pops line has always been great, but late in the season, the Devils had something going with Elias and Zubrus playing with Parise. That first line played a great game, constantly putting pressure on the Flyers defense. It also spread the scoring down to the second line, which also looked solid. It seems Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac have developed some chemistry playing together, and I think this would be the best fit for the rest of the playoffs.
2. The Devils’ Penalty Kill
By all means, the Devils played an undisciplined game tonight. They took eight minor penalties, and it almost seemed like the teams had reversed roles from game one. The Flyers’ have an above-average powerplay, and one that can tip a series in their favor. But the Devils penalty kill made sure it didn’t, killing off six of eight penalties tonight. While you never want to see a team playing 16 minutes of shorthanded hockey, the Devils penalty kill showed today that they can potentially neutralize the Flyers’ extra-man attack.
3. Zach Parise
How could you not like the effort of Parise tonight? Not only did he score the key shorthanded goal, he always seemed to motor around the ice. He also showed a willingness to get into the dirty areas, continually crashing the net and causing problems for the Flyers defense. Every forward should take a page from his book. Get to the front of the net, and good things will happen.
Things That Annoyed Me:
1. Ilya Kovalchuk
Maybe Kovalchuk’s empty-net goal will let the left-winger unwind a bit. He allowed the Flyers to get under his skin tonight, resulting in six penalty minutes. He took several dumb penalties, and twice let the team down with his overly physical play. I know Kovalchuk wants to get out there and cause trouble, but he should stick to causing trouble with his stick. The dumb penalties can only hurt the team during the duration of the series.
2. The Borderline Calls
I wonder if the officials know it’s playoff hockey. It seemed like, in game one, the stripes missed a few obvious calls. Tonight, they seemed to go to the whistle a little too early. David Clarkson’s tripping minor wasn’t a great call, as he swept the puck away from the Aaron Asham’s skates. Also, Greene’s interference call during the 4-on-4 confused me a bit. Yes, he collided with a Flyer behind the play. But it didn’t seem like it should be enough to get a penalty. The officials need to find a happy medium between what is/what is not a penalty.
3. The Flyers’ Third Line
They just annoyed me because they played well. It was surprising to see guys like Asham and Claude Giroux making some solid offensive plays. If the Devils can’t handle these guys, then the Devils give Philadelphia another dimension of offensive firepower.
Game three will be Sunday at 6 p.m. in Philadelphia.
Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images