PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – If it’s playoff time, it’s Danny Briere time. Briere scored two goals and Claude Giroux scored his league leading seventh playoff goal to lead the Philadelphia Flyers past the New Jersey Devils 4-3 to take a 1-0 series lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series.
The beginning of the game looked like the Flyers, who had been waiting seven days since they took out the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, looked they didn’t practice during their time off.
The Devils started the game off with the game’s first 11 shots. One of those was as a goal by Zach Parise who, thanks to a bad giveaway by Matt Read behind the Flyers net, Patrik Elias pounced on the opportunity and before Flyers defenseman Matt Carle could get to him Elias passed to the slot and a wide open Parise who slammed a wrist shot past Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov for the 1-0 lead.
The Flyers eventually got a shot on goal thanks to Eric Wellwood’s week dump in that Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur made easily. A sarcastic cheer from the home fans, who are known for many things, rained down from the rafters. The Flyers slowly turned things around with had two power play opportunities but looked bad doing so by constantly making poor passes to no one but a Devil to close out a very bad first period for the Flyers who was outshot 15-6 in the period.
Thankfully for the Flyers they gave the national TV audience something to watch other than New Jersey’s dump-and-chuck, bore-you-to-death style of hockey by scoring the games next two goals. Danny Briere broke in behind the Devils defense on a breakaway, thanks to a nice outlet pass by Jakub Voracek who was inside his own zone, and fed Briere with a nice lead pass, and Briere snapped a wrist shot by Brodeur in the lower left part of the net to tie the game at one with 8:07 into the second period.
Just 37 seconds later Matt Carle intercepted a clearing attempt by Brodeur and took a shot from the right point that bounced high off of Brodeur’s pads and went to the left point where James Van Riemsdyk blasted a shot high into the net and gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead.
Unfortunately for the Flyers Bryzgalov made two mistakes on the same goal when he didn’t stop a wrap a around pass that went behind the net and came out to the left boards where Parise got the puck and saw a wide open Travis Zajac cutting to the front of the net and shot between Bryzgalov’s legs, but the puck just barely snuck in behind him and went into the net to tie the game at 2-2.
Giroux, the early favorite for the playoff MVP trophy, did what he does best scoring the Flyers third goal of the game by blasting a nice cross ice pass from Kimmo Timonen who was at the top of the slot and dished it over to Giroux was parked in his favorite spot one the ice (the left face-off circle) and gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead.
Despite the Flyers controlling the game at both ends of the ice they paid the price for letting their guard down. Like the Devils, the Flyers allowed a breakaway goal when Petr Sykora broke in on Bryzgalov and fired a week shot between Bryzgalov’s pads to tie the score at three with 8:38 left in the game. Bryzgalov should have had the goal but the Flyers would be undaunted bit it.
Neither team scored the rest of the period and went into overtime. Since the Flyers were initially outshot 11-0 to start the game, the Flyers outshot the Devils the last two periods 23-7.
Fortunately for the home fans they didn’t have to wait long to find out whom the hero would be. They almost didn’t have to wait as long as they did when Briere appeared to score a goal but replay clearly showed he kicked the puck in the net.
Briere made up for it by scoring the game winning goal 4:36 into overtime. Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky try to get the puck out of his own from behind his net but Carle once again did a nice job of keeping the puck in the zone and got it deep to Voracek at the goal line. He backhanded a pass back to Briere who fired a shot from the left point and blew it by Brodeur with Van Riemsdyk and a Devils defenseman screening him. The Wells Fargo Center erupted and the Flyers took a 1-0 series lead.
The Flyers outshot the Devils 36-26 in the game. Both teams scored on the power play. Game Two of the series is Tuesday night in Philadelphia.