Peter Laviolette described his team’s 3-1 loss best when he said that New Jersey played a consistent game for three periods while his team only played two of the three and “the first one ended up costing us.”
The Flyers played the first period with stiff hands – pucks simply bounced off of their sticks – and slow feet – allowing the Devils to beat them on the puck races.
Henrik Tallinder cashed in first scoring on a point shot through traffic put the Devils ahead. A few minutes later, Patrick Elias slipped past an out-of-position Sean O’Donnell and slid the puck past Brian Boucher – who should have kept this puck out.
In those first 20 minutes, the Flyers showed little to no signs of life, and the fans let them know it with a resounding boo as the players left the ice.
“They’ve got high expectations for us, and so do we. We weren’t happy with that first period, and I guess we deserved to get booed,” said Brian Boucher. “I think that was a wake up call.”
It certainly was a wake up call.
The Flyers came out in the second period looking to even the score, controlling the play and regaining momentum. Unfortunately, the Devils – even when they were scrambling – fought hard for the puck in their defensive end, so chances weren’t ideal. The chances the Flyers did get were swept away by Johan Hedberg, who played a strong game in net, keeping out 26 of 27 shots.
It wasn’t until the final 20 seconds that the Flyers got their payoff when Claude Giroux centered a puck for James van Riemsdyk to tip past Hedberg.
That goal may have been enough to remind the Devils that a two goal lead is far from impenetrable, as they seemed to buckle down and fend the Flyers off.
It wasn’t until eight and a half minutes into the final period that the Flyers even got a shot on goal – despite having a power play earlier on. But once the Flyers got that first one on goal, they went on to out-shoot the Devils 12-5 for the rest of the period.
Unfortunately, with a few strong saves by Hedberg in the dying minutes coupled with a Claude Giroux penalty that forced the Flyers to pull the goaltender just to get back to 5-on-5, they couldn’t stop Patrick Elias from finishing the game with an empty netter, his second of the afternoon.
The Flyers have a well-hyped rematch against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow, something that many thought would take their focus off of today and may have had something to do with their slow start.
Kimmo Timonen disagrees, saying that Sunday’s game was nowhere in the minds of this team, but instead that they were simply “sleeping in the first half of the game,” and “not ready to play.”
It doesn’t matter whose on the ice – the league’s number one team can be knocked off by the worst of teams on any given night, it’s all a matter of how hard you’re willing to work. And today, New Jersey was the team that wanted to work for their win.