Game in a Sentence:

The New Jersey Devils fought back and scored four unanswered markers when the Philadelphia Flyers let off the gas pedal to even up the series heading back to the land of the Sopranos*.

*I loved that show.

Observations:

- The Flyers were definitely the stronger team to start. Lots of pace up and down the wings and strong possession play down the middle. The way they bust out of the gate made this game look like a clear cut 2-0 series advantage. Luckily for the Devils, they play three periods.

- The tide in this game really turned with 12 minutes to play in the second. The Devils began to drive possession and traffic towards Bryzgalov and the Flyers weren’t mounting much of a counterattack. I was concerned that the Devils were whiffing on too many chances to win this game in the end but that’s why they played a third period.

- The Devils were dominant in the third with the exception of two parts of the frame. Immediately after they equalized at one and towards the end of the third with the net empty at the Philly end of the rink. Even then, they mustered a goal. They deserved this win.

- David Clarkson scored 30 goals this year. None of his celebrations were as good as this one.

- The Flyers defensive zone coverage really seemed to come apart at that midway mark in the second. Lots of running around and puck watching, not nearly enough sticking to the system. This plagued them throughout their first round against Pittsburgh and they can’t fall back into it against the Devils.

- The Devils didn’t miss a beat without Ilya Kovalchuk. He has had a couple good games in postseason but all in all he has been clearly stuck with whatever his ailment is for some time. If an impact guy can’t make an impact, step back and let someone else take charge until you can again. Each year in the playoffs there are too many players who try to “tough it out” and make zero contribution to their team. I know how hard it can be to swallow that competitiveness but it’s often better for the team if that happens. Tonight was an example of just that.

- Is it bad that I think Adam Larsson will be the best player from last year’s draft when it’s all said and done? I hope not, because I do. He showed good physicality tonight and got off a great shot to tie the game. As he continues to learn the game, he’s going to get scary good. Not a bad playoff debut for your career.

- Is there a better indictment of how the NHL works these days than the fact that of the five goals scored, the only one scored by a player over 30 was a bouncing Hail Mary empty netter from Bryce Salvador? This is a young man’s league these days, you can’t expect the grizzled vets to produce like they did a decade ago.

- Andy Greene quietly did a lot of good work tonight. Led the team in minutes and shifts. Played what a cliché artist would call “the hard minutes.” Got his nose dirty. So on. So forth.

- Martin Brodeur was really a mixed bag this game. He made a few excellent saves but there were also moments where his defense really bailed him out by picking off loose pucks and blocking shots. He was really nonchalant at points and was too cavalier in his puck playing for my liking. I understand that it’s part of his game, but there didn’t seem to be any sense of urgency at points and it had me cringing in my unforgiving office chair.

- Ilya Bryzgalov was the reason why this wasn’t a seven goal New Jersey win. He was very quiet in his net, got square to everything and kept the Flyers under control in the back end. I mention above that their defense really collapsed and it forced Bryzgalov to make several tough saves, the majority of which he managed to turn aside. The three goals that were scored: a great shot behind a tough screen, a scramble, and a wrap around where he was hung out to dry didn’t do his performance justice. The line reads three goals against, but I recommend you put more stock in the saves that were made.

- I think a lot of folks had Philly winning this series in a wash and as you can see that’s not going to happen. Game three is in Jersey and whoever maintains the higher effort level for longer – literally – will win this game.

My Three Stars:

1) David Clarkson
2) Ilya Bryzgalov
3) Dainius Zubrus