The Philadelphia Flyers, down 2-1 in their series with the New Jersey Devils, needed to play their best game of the series to even it up. After the first period, it looked like they could be on their way to a win, but the Devils prevailed to extend their series lead.
New Jersey dominated early, but after yet another great timeout by Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, his team found their stride with superstar Claude Giroux leading the way. Giroux had a shot redirected by Scott Hartnell for a power play goal, and he then scored on a shorthanded breakaway just a few minutes later.
But a bad penalty by the incredibly slow Andreas Lilja gave the Devils a power play, and they capitalized to suck the momentum from Philly. Minutes later, Marek Zidlicky beat James van Riemsdyk to the net and met Bryce Salvador's cross-ice pass to tie the score.
In the second period, the Flyers were outplayed and badly outshot, but Ilya Bryzgalov kept them in the game with a number of fantastic saves.
Dainus Zubrus finally beat him towards the end of the period to give the Devils a 3-2 lead. At the end of the period, Giroux showed signs of frustration as he gave Zubrus an obvious head shot. As a Flyers fan, I like the fact that Giroux was riled up, but he cannot take shots like that because he becomes even more of a target.
The third period was again controlled by the Devils, and a late goal sealed a 4-2 victory.
For the Flyers' first goal-scorer, it was as classic of a "Hartnell-down" game as it gets: a beautiful goal off a play made by Giroux, followed by a few mistakes caused by Hartnell's lack of coordination.
He lost his balance and hit Martin Brodeur, resulting in a penalty (a weak call, but avoidable), had a bad turnover in the 2nd that led to a scoring chance and, on an odd-man rush in the second, he whiffed on what could have been a great shot opportunity.
Bryzgalov had a solid game overall, with a few standout saves in the second period. He kept the Flyers in the game during a stretch were they were outshot 11-1, but their offense was not able to get anything going.
After receiving heaps of praise after the Penguins series, rookies Brayden Schenn, Matt Read, and Sean Couturier have been relatively quiet.
The thing I have noticed with this series is the lack of someone stepping up for the Flyers. Giroux and Danny Briere have continued playing well, but not have not been dominating. Jaromir Jagr, Jake Voracek, Max Talbot, and Wayne Simmonds have all been very average.
If the Flyers are going to come back in this series, they will need help from their rookies. Their defense needs to be sharper, and the offense has to control the puck, forecheck, and cycle more consistently. Bryz has not been phenomenal, but he has been good enough that the Flyers should not be down 3-1.
But if they don't come back, Philly fans should not be too disappointed, because this young team will be a cup contender for years to come.
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