Dealing With The Devil
Just like that, the Philadelphia Flyers have gained the all important home ice advantage.
Brian Boucher made 23 saves, Mike Richards added a goal and an assist and the Flyers used a total team effort to upset the number two-seeded New Jersey Devils in Game One of their Eastern Conference match-up Wednesday night in Newark.
The Flyers own a 24-14-3 record playing in their home rink and will have a chance to completely take home-ice advantage from the Devils Friday night in Game Two.
Boucher played with plenty of confidence and made big saves when he had to and propelled the Flyers to the win despite making his first starting appearance in the playoffs since 2002.
The Devils came out of the gate flying with a lot of emotion and dictated the play to Philadelphia in the first period, outshooting the Orange-and-Black 9-4, but failed to put any pucks in the net.
After skating to a scoreless tie in the first period, Flyers defenseman and team MVP Chris Pronger tapped in the all important first goal to put the Flyers up 1-0 on the power-play 9:25 into the second period following a scrum in front of New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur.
Despite ending the night with only 14 shots on net, the Flyers were able to beat Brodeur enough times to win; two.
With under five minutes to play in the second period, Flyers’ winger Ian Laperriere forced a turnover in the neutral zone and connected on a sweet behind the back pass to Flyers’ center Mike Richards who shot a laser through Broduer to the far right post and into the back of the net.
From there, all the momentum was on the Flyers’ side and Prudential Center was shocked.
Flyers defenseman Matt Carle played an outstanding game and was all over the ice. He made smart choices in his defensive zone, made the right decisions in the offensive zone and finished with a team-high four blocks and hits.
The New Jersey power-play looked bad throughout the night and finished 0-for-5 while Philadelphia finished 1-for-3.
Much like the Devils power-play, winger Ilya Kovalchuk seemed to press a bit too much and tried to take over the game by himself. He was very dangerous in the offensive zone and had six scoring chances, but nonetheless, was held off the scoring sheet.
Boucher seemed very relaxed and motivated from the shootout win over the New York Rangers.
The Flyers improve to 6-1 vs. the Devils, including the Playoffs and Kovalchuk falls to 0-5 in playoff games.
NOTES: The victory marked the first time the Flyers have won a Game One in a series since 2004 against Tampa Bay. They had lost six straight opening games and eight of 10. I will be a guest on 1460- AM radio Friday night live from Game Two at 6:35 p.m. in Newark. Also, I will be posting a column on tonight’s game tomorrow afternoon.