By JAY BOEHMER
Staff Writer — firstname.lastname@example.org
For those who read our playoff preview, this style of game was to be expected. Hard, fast paced, and physical. These two teams went toe to toe for sixty minutes without slowing down.
Winning five of the six games of the season series, the Flyers were confident coming into this contest in neighboring New Jersey. Martin Brodeur had a goals against average of less than two in his playoff career, yet the Flyers had netted well over three on average during the regular season.
It was a question of which Brodeur would show up; the one with three Stanley Cup rings and half of the goaltending records to his name, or the one chased from his goal after giving up four consecutive goals barely two weeks ago.
Brodeur played a solid game, despite being tested with only 14 shots. This is the Flyers’ second lowest total in franchise playoff history (with the lowest, oddly enough, being 13 the Devils in the 2000 Conference Finals).
The Flyers had a fast but sloppy start to the game, ending the first period outshot 9-4 with the majority of chances going the Devils’ way. Brian Boucher showed himself to be a true playoff caliber goalie, keeping his team in it with a scoreless tie.
Boucher’s strong goaltending effort opened the Flyers up for a two goal second period as Chris Pronger buried a rebound after planting himself in front of Brodeur on the power play.
With a few minutes remaining, Ian Laperriere stole the puck from Martin Skoula and took it in on the rush before dropping it back to captain Mike Richards with a behind the back pass to set up a wicked slap shot that rang off the post as it blew by Brodeur.
Boucher and the defensive corps in front of him, led by the minute soaking sponge Chris Pronger and the “Most Improved Player” Matt Carle, just needed to hold the Devils off for the next twenty minutes to steal a road win early in the series.
Ilya Kovalchuk spent his night frustrated beyond belief, missing the net, getting robbed by the glove of Boucher, and having his plays broken up by the Flyers defense. When he wasn’t slamming his stick on the ice in frustration he was busy taking his anger out on the glass boards at the Prudential Center.
Eventually, with less than three minutes remaining in the third and final period, Travis Zajac had a shot deflected off Mike Richards, planted in front to block the shot, which went through and snuck by Boucher as he dealt with a buzzing Zach Parise.
This win, the Flyers’ first game 1 win series win since 2004, gives them a distinct advantage going forward.
Historically, more than two thirds of the teams that win game 1 go on to win the series, and the 7th seed over the 2nd is also the most common upset of the playoffs. The Flyers will look to follow these trends with three more wins to move on past this exhausting New Jersey team.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Brian Boucher: Looking like the reliable goaltender the Flyers need, Boucher kept his team in this tight one goal win with 23 saves on 24 shots, many of which were true testers.
Mike Richards: With three goals in the Flyers final three games of the season, Mike Richards stepped up when his team needed it most to seal the wins that got them to this playoff series. He ended last night’s game with a goal and an assist.
Chris Pronger / Matt Carle: This top defensive line stonewalled the Devils’ top forwards throughout the night, playing the longest and toughest minutes, including a four minute penalty kill early in the third.