In his first playoff start in eight years, Brian Boucher was nothing short of brilliant.
Boucher made 23 saves and outplayed future Hall of Fame goalie Marty Brodeur, as the Philadelphia Flyers earned a 2-1 Game One victory over the New Jersey Devils to take a 1-0 series lead Wednesday night at the Prudential Center.
Chris Pronger and Mike Richards scored huge second period goals, while the Flyers killed five New Jersey power plays to take home ice away from the Devils.
"It's big. You're on the road. You're trying to gain confidence and settle into the series" said Pronger.
Boucher made several big stops for the Flyers, including one on Patrik Elias from in close with about 10 seconds left in the game and the Orange 'n' Black were able to clear the puck to cement the Game One win.
His best save of the night came in the first period against New Jersey's superstar mid-season acquisition Ilya Kovalchuk, when he flashed some leather on a wrister by Kovalchuk from the slot with 12:08 to play in the first.
"I felt comfortable coming in," Boucher said. "Like I said before, we feel like we've been playing playoff hockey in the last two weeks or so, so it just felt like another game today."
"We said we wanted Game One, and we got it. So now we have a day of rest and regroup and look forward to Game Two."
With a scoreless contest in the second period, Pronger provided the Flyers with a 1-0 lead with his 103th career playoff point. Richards made a bad angle pass from the goal line that Simon Gagne was able to redirected off of Brodeur to Pronger in the crease where Prongs deposited the puck in the net.
Pronger is ranked fourth among currently active players with 103 postseason points behind Nicklas Lidstrom (166), Mark Recchi (123) and Elias (113).
"We were getting our feet moving and getting into the game, which means getting pucks in deep, crashing and banging —and creating turnovers and getting pucks to the net." Pronger said.
Richards scored his eighth career playoff goal when he jumped on the ice on a line change and took a behind the back pass from Ian Laperriere to bury a slapper past Brodeur's left shoulder to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead with 3:33 left in the second period.
Lappy created the goal by stripping Devils defenseman Martin Skoula at the blue line and patiently waited for Richards to come off the bench for the line change.
"If I had missed that pass I don't think you would have seen me on the ice again." Laperriere said.
Rookie defenseman Oskars Bartulis was spotted for a double minor at 2:12 in the third period when he clipped New Jersey's David Clarkson in the nose, drawing blood, but the Flyers successfully killed off the four minute power play.
Braydon Coburn took a delay of game penalty at 8:49 in the third when he knocked the net off its morings in a scramble in the Flyers crease. It was a bad time for a penalty, but it was a good penalty as it most likely saved a goal.
"Our penalty kill has been unbelievable," said Boucher. "They put their bodies on the line every night and block shots."
Boucher carried a shutout bid late into the third period, but Travis Zajac gave the Devils fans some hope with a blast on a screened Boucher that appeared to have taken a fortuitous bounce off Laperriere's skate with 2:43 left.
Coming off their final game of the season in which they fired 47 pucks on New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, the Flyers managed to pepper only 14 shots on Brodeur, who made 12 saves.
Not only did Pronger give the Flyers a 1-0 lead, he showed exactly why they traded for him this past offseason. Pronger logged 30:18 minutes, three blocked shots and two hits.
"I'm just getting some good looks and getting opportunities, I guess," Pronger said. "We've played pretty well against them throughout the course of the season."
Matt Carle had another spectacular game for the Orange 'n' Black as he logged 27:54 minutes while accumulating as many block shots (four) than the entire Devils team, and led the game with four hits.
Carle has been one of the Flyers most consistent players all year long and arguably the team's second best defenseman behind Pronger.
For the Devils, their star players were missing in action on Wednesday. Most notably, Ilya Kovalchuk, who showed his frustrations on multiple occasions. Kovalchuk was acquired from Atlanta for the playoffs and he was a non-factor.
From slamming his stick up against the boards to trying to do too much, Kovalchuk was completely shut down by the Flyers. Whatever Philly was doing, they were doing it to perfection as Kovalchuk was visibly upset.
Here's some food for thought: Kovalchuk is 0-for-5 in playoff games in his career.
Maybe it's a sign of things to come.
This story contains quotes from ESPN.com, CSNPhilly.com and Philly.com.
For more Philadelphia sports coverage, please go to my blog: The Broad Street Scoop.
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