Sunday, April 29, 2012

Danny Double: Briere's second chance OT score allows Flyers to get jump on Devils

Special to the Phanatic

A 14-year NHL pro, Danny Briere says he doesn't feel pressure in the playoffs.

Instead, the overriding feeling is of excitement.

"When I have the opportunity like I have this year, like I've had the past few years in the playoffs, you try to make the best of it and enjoy it as much as possible," said Briere, now in his fifth season with the Flyers.

The 34-year-old scored his second goal of the game 4:36 into overtime Sunday afternoon and the Philadelphia Flyers beat the New Jersey Devils, 4-3, to open their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Briere's game winner came moments after he had an earlier potential game-deciding goal disallowed because it was clearly kicked in with his left skate.

The fifth-seeded Flyers, after a slow start, peppered Martin Brodeur with 36 shots and took a 1-0 lead in the series despite allowing the Devils to tie the game twice in the last two periods.

James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux also scored and Ilya Bryzgalov made four of his 23 saves in OT for the Flyers, who were playing for the first time in a week after knocking off the Penguins in six games.

Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Petr Sykora scored for the sixth-seeded Devils, with Sykora's goal tying the game 11:22 into the third period.

Brodeur gave up all four goals, including the game-winner on Philadelphia's seventh shot of the extra period.

The Devils, after beating Florida on the road in double-overtime Thursday to win Game 7 of their Conference Quarterfinal series, will try to even this series in Game 2 on Tuesday night in Philadelphia.

"We were able to erase a couple of leads and stayed in the game. I wish we could have kept that pace up that we had in the first period," said Parise. "We didn't really give them much room out there, but I thought we played a pretty solid game all around."

Briere's disallowed goal touched off a muted celebration by the Flyers, most of them realizing he had directed the tipped pass into the net with his skate.

But there was no doubt about his next shot, a hard, low blast from the point that made it through a van Riemsdyk screen and past Brodeur for Briere's seventh goal of the postseason.

It gave him 26 goals in his last 41 playoff games dating back to 2010 and 49 in 104 career postseason games.

"When he gets the puck on his stick, something is going to happen. That's why he's so dangerous," said Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who had an assist. "He's money in the playoffs."

Earlier, Giroux also got his seventh goal of the playoffs on a hard one-timer from the middle of the left circle that beat Brodeur over his shoulder 4:19 into the third period to make it 3-2 Flyers.
Giroux won a faceoff on the right side to set up the play, then shifted across the ice for Timonen's pass.

Sykora's tying goal came just over seven minutes later and followed a Flyers giveaway inside the New Jersey zone. Sykora ended up behind a Philly defender and slipped a shot through Bryzgalov's legs from the left side to make it 3-3.

After Sykora's goal, Brodeur made a blocker save on van Riemsdyk as he went to the ice in the crease.

It was one of 15 shots by the Flyers in the third. Van Riemsdyk had another good chance with around 3:15 remaining in regulation on an open shot in the slot, but Brodeur stopped him again.

Early in the first period, Flyers rookie forward Matt Read turned the puck over behind his own net and Patrik Elias passed to Parise in the left circle for a one-timer and 1-0 Devils lead just 3:16 in.

New Jersey took advantage of the hosts' week-long sabbatical, rolling up 11 shots before the Flyers got their first and ended the opening period with a 15-6 advantage.

That caused the sellout crowd to make its half-hearted, but audible and not totally undeserved displeasure known. After all, the Orange and Black scored a combined nine goals in the first period of their three home tilts against the Penguins in the opening round.

"That was embarrassing. We can't come out like that," said Giroux. "It's unacceptable and we are lucky enough to have 'Bryz' shut the door and he made some huge stops for us."

The Flyers finally found their legs following intermission, and the sudden jolt allowed them to take the lead with goals 37 seconds apart in the middle period.

Jakub Voracek hit Briere with a long pass behind two defenders, and the veteran netminder guessed wrong by trying to anticipate a low shot, needlessly flopping towards the right post while the French-Canadian sniper chipped the puck in the opposite direction.

Moments later, Brodeur threw his left pad into the air to stop a point shot from Flyers defenseman Erik Gustafsson, but was unable to scramble to stop van Riemsdyk's high rebound chance from the low left side, which made it 2-1 at the 8:44 mark.

The Devils tied the game 31 seconds into a Matt Carle hooking penalty when Parise slid a pass all the way from the left boards to Zajac on the other side of the net for a tip-in that squeezed through Bryzgalov's legs and trickled over the line.

Notes: With the victory, the Orange and Black improved to 14-10 all-time in postseason games against the Devils, and upped their OT mark against New Jersey to 3-0, and have taken all four overtime playoff games against the franchise...Van Riemsdyk picked up his first playoff tally sincce scoring both in a 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of the Eastern semifinals on May 2, 2011...The Atlantic Division rivals finished one point away from each other in the regular season...The Flyers and Devils have met four other times in the playoffs: the Devils won the 1995 and 2000 Eastern Conference finals, while the Flyers captured quarterfinal series in 2004 and '10...New Jersey has participated in three straight overtime contests.
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