Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Devils cook up disaster, even series with strong third period


by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

The great partnership between English comedians Peter Cook and Dudley Moore yielded one decent movie, 1967's seminal "Bedazzled."

In it, Cook, playing a rather ordinary-looking British version of Lucifer, helps Moore's working-schlub character achieve his goals through the usual devious means. Of course, Moore's quest ultimately involves getting a female to notice him, but in between, a series of vignettes detail how each one of Moore's seven wishes, from a simple ice pop onward are procured then twisted into an ironic, unsatisfactory ending.

As much as there have been complaints from all quarters that the Flyers have not found a way to prevent starting slowly, the wish of the masses finally came to fruition on Tuesday.

Matt Read tallied before the game was three minutes old and then Ilya Bryzgalov made that slim margin hold up with 25 saves through the first two periods, but the New Jersey Devils turned it all around in shocking fashion, scoring four times in the third to take a 4-1 victory.

Apparently, it was all academic to head coach Peter DeBoer. "I really felt we'd respond like this,'' he said. ''I knew we'd be better. Knew we'd bounce back. We've dealt with adversity and injuries all year. It's nothing new.''

Adam Larsson, David Clarkson, Travis Zajac and Bryce Salvador lit the lamp for the visitors, who acquitted themselves well following an overtime loss in Sunday's Game 1.

Martin Brodeur looked every bit the man who will turn 40 on Sunday, fighting the puck continually in the opening 20 minutes. He rebounded to snag the win thanks to 19 stops -- nine of them in the final period.

In a role reversal, Bryzgalov was perhaps the best player on the ice for the hosts, losing despite halting 31 pucks.

"I don't know why, but after the first few minutes we seemed to play with no urgency, no desperation," said Sunday hero Danny Briere.

With this Eastern Conference Semifinal tied at a game apiece, Game 3 shifts to Prudential Center in Newark on Thursday night.

Bryzgalov put together his best period of the playoffs in the second, holding the fort as New Jersey rolled up a 12-2 shot advantage and held the Flyers off the board until 87 seconds remained in the stanza.

"There are times when a goaltender can stand on his head and squeak one out for you, but often times it doesn't last and the end result is justified based on total performance." said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette, again lost for words in a short postgame presser.

He would have been on pace to record the club's first 1-0 shutout since Roman Cechmanek did it in Game 4 of the Eastern Semifinals against Ottawa exactly nine years before, but the Devils saw to it that history was tilted to their favor.

During a 4-on-4 with Marek Zidlicky and Scott Hartnell in the penalty box, Larsson -- the sub for a scratched Ilya Kovalchuk who was sidelined with a reported back issue -- tied the game by scoring on a wrister from the right circle that slipped inside the near post at the 3:08 mark.

"Down a goal, third period, that was huge," DeBoer said of the 19-year-old. "I feel great for him. He was out a few games but came back tonight and responded well."

Clarkson put them up for good with 8:43 remaining, crashing the cage and depositing a Zach Parise rebound just before knocking the net off its pegs with force.

Zajac made it a 3-1 game with just under six minutes to play as he circled from left to right and lifted a backhander on a wraparound with Bryzgalov hopelessly out of position.

The frustrating evening came to an appropriate end inside of three minutes left when Salvador, by total accident, cleared a puck more than half the length of the ice while shorthanded into the empty net.

"We stayed positive despite the way Bryzgalov dominated the second period," offered Brodeur, who had an excellent view and plenty of experience to say so. "We kept saying "guys, keep on shooting because he's going to give up something, and when he does it'll be more than one.'"

Another sellout crowd had reason to ramp up its emotion as Read, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn worked their youthful magic on the fourth shift of the contest.

The 25-year-old was alone in front of Brodeur but missed his chance, only to see Schenn recover the puck behind the net and set up Read from a sharp angle along the goal line to the right of the veteran seconds later. A low, hard shot zipped inside the near post at 2:53.

New Jersey wasn't jolted to life until a sequence midway through the second period, where, on two consecutive shifts the puck hardly left the Philadelphia zone. Bryzgalov had to make several quality saves on shots that weren't of real quality, but the effort drew a standing ovation from the faithful when it finally concluded.

"I thought their skating was better than ours," was Laviolette's terse assessment of the advantages the visitors exploited. "It was (in all) three zones. They were quicker to the puck than we were."

Notes: New Jersey hadn't won in regulation since Game 4 of the opening round against Florida...The Flyers fell to 3-2 at home this postseason...Philly last gave up four goals in the third period of a playoff game on May 6, 2011 at Boston, in a season-ending 5-1 loss...Zajac has five goals over nine games in these playoffs...The Devils moved their record back to the .500 mark in Philadelphia, at 7-7 all-time...James van Riemsdyk and Briere were a game-worst minus-3, while Claude Giroux was held to two shots and a minus-1 in 21:05 of ice time...Six different Devils players posted a game-best plus-2...The Orange and Black finished 0-for-5 on the advantage, sinking to 1-for-11 in two games.
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