Flyers Vs. Devils Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 1: Philadelphia Wins Opening Game In OT, 4-3
There were several times that Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils should have been over. Long before Danny Briere scored his second goal of the game to give the Flyers the 4-3 overtime win, the two teams should have been home, resting up and mentally preparing for Game 2.
Yet, a handful of missed opportunities by both teams led to an instance of free hockey.
In the first period, the Devils could have ended the game following a lackadaisical 20-minute effort from the Flyers who were playing their first game in a week.
Despite dominating play in the opening stanza and generating several quality chances, the Devils only managed to score one goal off of a Matt Read turnover. In hindsight, their inability to take advantage of those chances ultimately cost them the game.
In the third, the Flyers could have ended the game after a demonstrative power play goal from Claude Giroux. However, a Jakub Voracek turnover resulted in Jersey tying the game on a Petr Sykora shot that Ilya Bryzgalov should have stopped (it was Sykora’s first playoff goal since 2008).
In overtime, Briere should have ended the game but a distinct kicking motion allowed play to continue on. Unlike the other players though, Briere had a second chance to put the game away for good; he didn’t waste the opportunity.
Despite a terrible start, one that saw the team go almost 10 minutes without registering a shot on goal, the heavily favored Flyers managed to turn things around in order to take a 1-0 series lead.
With questions swirling about the team having too much rest in between games, Philadelphia definitively answered those questions with a resounding yes; yes, it absolutely appeared as though they had too much rest.
“That was embarrassing,” Giroux said after the game. “It is easy to say that we haven’t played for a week, but at the same time we have to be ready mentally. We did another come back. We need to start having the lead and keeping it.”
And come back they did.
The team quickly returned to form in the second period with the help of two of last year’s playoff standouts, Briere and James van Riemsdyk, both of which scored goals in the middle stanza.
Although van Riemsdyk didn’t earn an assist in overtime on the game-winning goal, he certainly deserved one given the power move he made to the New Jersey net that set up the opportunity.
For the Devils, the game could have been the perfect situation to make a statement in this series.
With the Flyers playing the role of heavy favorites, Jersey could have made their claim to the rest of the hockey world that they didn’t care what every one else thought. Just as Philadelphia did to Pittsburgh in Round 1, the Devils could have shown that they were ready to be the David to the Flyers’ Goliath.
Just like the team’s chances in Game 1, the Devils blew that opportunity.
Of course, one game does not a series make. Both teams have plenty to work on prior to Tuesday night’s Game 2.
"We haven't made excuses for those kind of things all year, I'm not going to start now," Devils head coach Peter Deboer said of the blown opportunities. "They were the hungrier team the second half. What the reason for it was, it doesn't matter right now. We've got to get ready for Game 2."
The Flyers though, have the solace of a 1-0 lead. The Devils only have the comfort of another day, a comfort that will not be sustained for much longer if they can’t find a way to capitalize on their opportunities.
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