Here is my recap of the Devils 2-1 Game 1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night:
Pronger & Flyers Take Game 1 from Devils
Philadelphia 2 Devils 1
The Philadelphia Flyers won Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal 2-1 over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center, thanks in large part to the only player on their roster with a Stanley Cup ring — Chris Pronger. The veteran defenseman played a large role in his team’s series opening win, scoring the first goal of the game (via the power play) and he was on the ice for literally half of the game — 30:01. The Devils had some chances to score sporadically throughout the game, but they never sustained any pressure, particularly on the power play, thanks in large part to Pronger and friends.
New Jersey held Philadelphia to just 14 shots on net, but that was all they needed to take the home-ice advantage away from their rivals. “We have to be better on the PP obviously,” Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said afterwards. “We controlled the five-on-five play for the most part and we did a pretty good job limiting their chances; our power play just didn’t score a goal.”
“I think we played a pretty good game,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. “We had some chances that, the puck didn’t go in. We limited them to a certain number of chances, which, that’s what we were looking for.” Both teams squandered first period power plays as the game remained scoreless heading into the decisive second period. Flyers’ winger Simon Gagne snapped a sharp angle shot that Martin Brodeur initially saved, but Pronger slid the puck into the net from just outside the crease at 9:25 to give Philly a 1-0 lead.
A short time later the Devils best scoring chance of the game came when Ilya Kovalchuk brought the crowd to its feet with an amazing rush up ice that saw him slice through four Flyers like a hot knife through butter — before Brian Boucher eventually stifled his wrist shot and made the fans sit back down with a nice save. “He had numerous chances tonight but couldn’t get a goal,” Lemaire said of Kovalchuk.
Philadelphia’s captain Mike Richards doubled the lead when he converted a nifty spin-o-rama pass from Ian Laperierre and blasted a shot past Brodeur at 16:27. “It hit the top of my pad (over my toe) and it went in,” said Brodeur, “it hit the underside of the crossbar and came back out.” Laperierre knew he took a big risk with his dazzling pass, but was happy with the result. “I looked over my shoulder and I saw Richie there; I told him on the bench if I missed that pass I don’t think I’ll see the ice again,” explained Laperierre, “but you take chances and it worked.”
New Jersey was given multiple opportunities to climb back into the contest during the third period, as the Flyers took two penalties — including a high-sticking double minor. “We didn’t generate much on the power play at all; we did a good job of entering the zone, but after that they did a good job of keeping us to the outside. We didn’t get enough shots,” Langenbrunner said.
But the penalty killers were outstanding for coach Peter Laviolette’s squad and eventually killed off all five Devil power plays in the game. “The PK, we had some big kills in the third period, obviously the double-minor, not the way you want to start the period when you’re up 2-0 and having to kill off four minutes of the first five minutes,” said the Flyers coach. “I thought the penalty killers did a real good job.”
Finally, with 2:43 left in the game Travis Zajac gave the home crowd something to cheer about when his long shot slipped past Boucher, thanks to a double screen of the goaltender by Zach Parise and Dainius Zubrus. “We were looking for a goal earlier than when we got ours,” said Lemairthat would’ve helped.
The Flyers held on, despite having only two shots on goal during the final twenty minutes, as Pronger and Boucher were as strong as they were all game long during the last 163 seconds. “I felt pretty calm,” said Boucher afterwards, “for me, there’s nothing to lose.” Kovalchuk may have been frustrated in his first playoff game with the Devils, but he didn’t sound like it after the game. “It takes four games to win a series,” said Kovalchuk, “they got the first one and we have to find a way to fight through them.”
Game Notes: The Devils looked out-of-sync from the opening face-off and had numerous sloppy line changes throughout the evening. Philadelphia is now 29-32 all-time in Game 1’s, New Jersey is 19-10. Defenseman Paul Martin led the Devils in ice-time with 24:46; Flyers blueliner Matt Carle led all players with four blocked shots. Parise led all players with five shots on goal; Laperierre and Carle led all players with four hits apiece. Game 2 will be Friday night at 7:30pm at Prudential Center.
Game 1 Hero: Chris Pronger
Game 1 Goat: Devils Power Play
Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:
#1 – Brian Boucher (Phil) – 23 saves, win (1-0)
#2 – Chris Pronger (Phil) – pp goal (1)
#3 – Mike Richards (Phil) – gw goal (1), assist (1)
Dan Rice covers the New Jersey Devils & NHL for NYCSportsnetwork.com, & contributes to IslesNation.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.