Thursday, November 03, 2011

Flyers bedeviled by Elias in shootout, lose 4-3

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

The names have changed, but the song remains the same.

While the old numbers and uniforms which used to cause the Flyers so much trouble still exist, most of them are filled with younger players not yet accustomed to the level of rancor between New Jersey and Philadelphia.

But Patrik Elias is still there. It was his goal, coming in the final round of the shootout, which got the Devils past Philly by a 4-3 count on Thursday night.

Elias made a deke to the right post, and, with Sergei Bobrovsky sprawled out within his crease, the winning backhander slid through a tiny space between the ice and his pad.

It was a deflating end to a game which saw Peter Laviolette's club waste a 2-0 lead, then fail to hold a 3-2 edge late in regulation; a game where Max Talbot managed to bring the crowd to its fee with a penalty-shot score in the third, but where Matt Carle managed to bring the crowd to its knees with a crucial turnover which resulted in David Clarkson's game-tying score.

Devils defenseman Mark Fayne dragged down Talbot from behind on a breakaway, and the former Penguin gave the Flyers a 3-2 edge at 2:37 of the third with a wrister which squeezed between the pad of Johan Hedberg.

But Jersey got even when Carle's errant clear right up the middle found Elias' stick. The savvy veteran wheeled around and dished in between the circles, where David Clarkson's desperation backhander slid under Bobrovsky with 6:35 left in regulation.

The shootout was not without artistry and controversy.

After Wayne Simmonds failed to score and Zach Parise did, Danny Briere broke in on Hedberg, drawing him out between the circles. Briere put on the brakes, made a lateral move to the right, and calmly deposited the puck into a wide-open net.

Once the jaws of fans and media members alike returned to their natural positions, an official review determined that Briere did nothing illegal by stopping himself before continuing forward.

According to several sources, who cite the NHL rule book, the motion of the shooter is of no consequence, but since the puck did not cease to move during the chance, it was ruled a good goal.

That was about as good as it got for the home team, which suffered its fifth loss in eight games
and fell to 7-4-2 on the year.

Things were looking better for the hosts after a pair of goals 5 1/2 minutes apart in the second period.

At 2:38, Sean Couturier won a battle behind the Devils net and moved the puck to the left side behind Hedberg. That's where an unmarked Zac Rinaldo accepted the disc and fired inside the right post for his first NHL tally and a 1-0 lead.

Claude Giroux then found the scoresheet at the 8:08 mark, when he snuck in alone at the left circle and fired home a perfect pass from Jaromir Jagr to double Philly's advantage. The slick 39-year-old caught the attention of Devils' checkers as he circled the net from left to right, enabling Giroux to find open space.

But New Jersey clawed back into the contest just 51 seconds later. Ilya Kovalchuk won a left-circle draw and pushed the puck forward, where Adam Henrique pushed it ahead for Parise, whose blind backhander slipped through Bobrovsky's five-hole.

The game was knotted at 2-2 at 11:57 on a Devils power play as a giveaway sprung Kovalchuk on the right wing, and his dish to Henrique found its way inside the left pipe.

Though coming off a 5-3 loss less than 24 hours prior, New Jersey put the pedal to the floor and slowly began dictating play. A 9-5 shots edge in the opening 20 minutes ballooned to a 30-14 margin after two periods and eventually became a 39-23 total in favor of the visitors.

Bobrovsky was tested on two quick shots in close by former Flyer Dainius Zubrus with less than two minutes remaining in the first. The initial chance was stopped by the pad and then caromed off the far post; the second was skilfully turned aside by the blocker.

Kovalchuk also raced in alone while shorthanded in the final minute of the second, but shot the puck into Bobrovsky's pad as he fell forward to cut off that opening.

Hedberg was equal on a Talbot break-in, turning aside that shot with the right pad in the final seven minutes of the opening period, then came up big with a sliding pad save against the left post on Rinaldo with 6 1/2 minutes played in the second.

Notes: The 21 second-period shots for New Jersey were the third-most against the Flyers in their history (1982-present), following a 23-shot second period in a 3-2 win at the Meadowlands on February 7, 1987, and a 22-shot third period in a 4-1 home win on October 8, 1997...Talbot's penalty-shot score was the first for the Orange and Black since Darroll Powe converted his opportunity on February 15 against Tampa Bay in a 4-3 overtime win...It was the Flyers' first successful home penalty shot since Simon Gagne beat Yann Danis in a 5-1 decision against the Islanders on February 14, 2009.

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