In a series that’s been marred by incredibly inconsistent officiating, the Philadelphia Flyers have made the most of the man-advantage and have had the better of the recent five on five play to take a three games to one lead in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series against the New Jersey Devils.
The Flyers powerplay made all the difference in this game, as the Orange and Black converted twice in eight opportunities, while the Devils were only able to beat Brian Boucher once in eight tries, as the Flyers took home the victory by a score of 4-1. In a first period that was largely taken over by the official’s whistles for both sides instead of letting the two teams play, the Devils struck first for the only goal of the frame on the power play courtesy of Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk showed patience one of the few times in this series and waited as he drifted into the slot on a five on three, before sniping a wrist shot over Boucher’s shoulder and into the twine. The rest of the period featured a parade to the penalty box as, much like in Game Three, the officials had lost control of the game early.
In the second period, the Flyers started to get some power play opportunities of their own, and were able to make the Devils pay. The first of two power play goals on the night for Jeff Carter knotted the score up at one a-piece and allowed the Flyers to breathe a sigh of relief, as they were now back into the hockey game. About eight minutes later, the Flyers only added to the Devils’ troubles, as in a four on four situation Danny Briere found the back of the net to make the score 2-1 Flyers and send the Wachovia Center into a state of bedlam. The end of the second period is when the situation became testy: Danius Zubrus took a clear charge into Flyers captain Mike Richards, leveling Richards into the boards after taking a skating start to grab a full head of steam from nearly halfway across the Flyers’ defensive zone. A little bit of a scrum ensued, but somehow Zubrus was not penalized for his mishap, and instead James van Riemsdyk picked up a two minute minor for roughing with four seconds left in the second period. This set up a huge powerplay opportunity for New Jersey heading into the third.
Fortunately for the Flyers, their penalty kill was more than up to the task. The Orange and Black continued to do a great job of keeping the Devils away from the middle of the ice on the power play and killed off the penalty fairly easily. Once the Flyers did their job on the PK, the ice completely shifted in their favor for the next ten minutes of the third. The Devils slowly started to implode, as Ilya Kovalchuk was whistled for the Devils having Too-Many Men on the Ice about six minutes into the third. Although Kimmo Timonen joined him in the box a mere twenty-seven seconds later, the Flyers continued to look like the better team on the ice. Later on in the frame, the Flyers were able to reap the benefits of a fortunate bounce as Danny Carcillo once again proved hero in taking a low percentage shot from the angle and burying it past the unsuspecting Martin Brodeur to make things 3-1 Flyers and put the game in control. Then, the Devils began to completely fall apart. New Jersey was whistled for a few suspect penalties as well as some lazy ones on their parts, and the Flyers took advantage with Carter notching his second goal of the game.
Now, the Flyers have a three games to one lead in a series in which they were labeled the underdog. The series now shifts back to The Rock in Newark, New Jersey, where the Flyers can beat a hungry and determined Devils team will be awaiting them. The Flyers are currently dealing with some injuries as it appears Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter each sustained foot injuries last night. Gagne, if a cortisone shot is needed, should be able to go with a broken foot, but early signs are pointing to Carter missing the contest, meaning Ville Leino will be in for his first dose of playoff action as a Flyer.
Stay tuned for more news on Carter and Gagne, as well as a Game Preview for a crucial Game Five sometime tomorrow.