Devils Take Series Lead with 4-3 Overtime Win
The Flyers looked spent. Gassed. Beat. Physically, emotionally, in every sense and stretch of the term. Dudes was drained.
To that end, Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semis showcased the same, irksome discrepancy in team energy and top-to-bottom efficacy that did the one before. So maybe, then, it shouldn’t shock that New Jersey ended up on top, 4-3, in overtime.
But it did. Had to. We’re talking stares-o-blank and mouths agape. Really. There’s no way you figured the Devils favorites in this one, or on the series. Yet, with a 2-games-to-1 edge, you’ve genuinely got to wonder what kind of chops the Flyers have left. If any.
The worst part: You’ve already seen everything they’ve got. That was it. That right there.
They didn’t outhit the Devils, but, at 30-28, they tried. Hard. Didn’t work.
They out-shot the Devils 9-4 in the second. (Got smoked in the Meaningful Shot Department, though, even if the advantage was only three, 31-28, New Jersey.) Couldn’t score.
Peter Laviolette – and you wish Andy Reid was this good with stashing stuff that matters for when might matter most – saved his 30-second timeout for overtime. Then, like a gift wrapped by the hockey gods themselves, Dainus Zubrus mashed Brayden Schenn’s face into the board seconds later. Nothing came of it. (Not even a shot. Seriously.)
They had another power play about four minutes later. (Alexei Ponikarovsky got tagged with a delay-of-game 12 minutes, 29 seconds in.) Not much better.
Yeah, the team did send one home for a power play goal, Brayden Schenn’s early in the first, making for the eighth game of their nine this postseason that they’ve scored with an advantage. And, daps where they’re due, maybe they were mixing it up with the NHL’s regular season record-holders for penalty kill percentage on a season. (Even if they did stink it up when shorthanded against Florida in their first-round action.) Not enough.
Maybe there’s a reason that the team is now 1-4 in playoff games in which they score first. Maybe there wasn’t anything to the 13-of-19 previous winners locking up overtimes on the road, or the 7-of-19 that ended within the first five minutes of the extra period. You know, some, deeply seeded psychological dynamic that we just can’t put our fingers on.
What we do? The Flyers are all but toast.
And not just because of the loss. Not the bitch-slap to the psyche of watching yet another early 1-0 lead – this time, by virtue of Schenn’s netter just 6 minutes, 8 seconds in – fizzle. Not from the emotional trebuchet of thinking, hoping, banking on the team parlaying Danny Briere’s third-period, game-tying wrister – his 108th point in 106 playoff games (he also assisted on Schenn’s goal), which, yeah, categorically cements his late-spring bossedness – into a for-sure win, only to watch it (and any slivers of Mo’ the team might’ve mustered before and brought in) crumble.
Because there’s really nothing this team’s got left. Nothing more they can muster.
Nothing more that would put them on par with the Devils. Yeah, the Orange and Black said it (and we wrote it), they’re fresher, lighter, faster from their long haul in a week ago. And while you’d like to think that maybe that could factor in for the Flyers here and now – I’d bet they shed some serious pounds in those 17-plus minutes before Ponikarovsky ended it – you’ve gotta sooner believe that their legs are cooked, backs are poached and brains are scrambled.
Sean Couturier might be, too. He left the ice with 4 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first, and didn’t return. Team GM Paul Holmgren stepped up with the news that, somehow, someway, guy had a nasty cut on his leg. (Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly said that TSN and RDS have vids of what happened.) Minor blow. (To that end, it’s worth noting that, his plus-4 Game 2 against Pittsburgh notwithstanding, guy’s been worth (cost?) a minus-2 in these playoffs.)
Though you’d better believe that’s the least of the Flyers problems.
More pressing? What alien planet Claude Giroux’s been beamed to. Only two shots today? Eight on the series? This, from The Next Coming Of Clarke? Unacceptable. Sure, he nudged his way onto the playoff leaderboard for goals scored for his work against Pittsburgh (entering Thursday, he – and Briere – led what’s left of the league with seven goals). But – and I don’t care if you see this coming – the longer this thing progresses, the higher the stakes. That’s how playoff hockey works.
And, frankly, why the Flyers don't.
Game four is Sunday in Newark, puck drops at 7:30.
(This article was written by Matt Hammond, you can reach him at email@example.com)