The Flyers were out-hustled, out-worked, out-shot, and simply outplayed Sunday night in Newark, and as a result they dropped a virtual must-win Game 4 to the Devils by a score of 4-2. Here’s a recap of the action at the Prudential Center:
The Flyers scored the first goal and took a 1-0 lead for the third straight game. This time, it was Scott Hartnell redirecting a Claude Giroux shot from the point past Martin Brodeur on the power play past the halfway point of the period. Kimmo Timonen also picked up an assist, and despite an early charge by the Devils the Flyers had the lead.
They extended their lead to 2 goals for the first time all series less than 2 minutes later. After an Andreas Lilja tripping penalty, the Flyers won the faceoff in their own zone and Max Talbot and Claude Giroux rushed up with the puck. Talbot dropped it off to Giroux, who beat Brodeur with a nifty backhand move for the shorthanded goal. It was a flashback to the first round series against Pittsburgh, and they had a 2-0 lead with both goals coming on special teams.
Alas, the lead would be cut to 2-1 on the same power play. As the PP opportunity dwindled to a close, Marek Zidlicky lofted a shot/pass from the point to the backside of net, where Petr Sykora redirected it past Ilya Bryzgalov for the goal. Travis Zajac also picked up an assist on the goal, and suddenly the Flyers were feeling the pressure.
3 minutes later, the Devils tied the game. It was almost a carbon-copy of the power play goal, except this one was on the opposite side of the offensive zone and at even-strength. Bryce Salvador took a pass from Ilya Kovalchuk and lofted a puck to the backside of the net, where fellow defenseman Marek Zidlicky redirected it in for his first career postseason goal and second point of the period. At the end of a wild and wacky first period, the score was tied 2-2 despite a 16-7 shot advantage for the Devils. Ilya Bryzgalov made a number of big saves, particularly with his glove, to keep the Flyers in the game.
The second period started, and it was all Devils. They outshot the Flyers 16-5, and they kept the puck in the offensive zone for the majority of the period. After almost 18 minutes of incredible play from Bryzgalov, the Devils got a 2-on-1 opportunity. The Flyers broke it up, but Adam Henrique recovered the puck behind the net, turned, and found former Flyers Dainius Zubrus wide open for the shot that he buried past Bryzgalov. Petr Sykora also picked up an assist on the goal, and the Devils took a much-deserved 3-2 lead. With just a few seconds left in the period, Claude Giroux gave Zubrus a shoulder to the chin after Zubrus had dumped the puck into the zone. Zubrus went down to the ice clutching his head, but he would later return to the game. Giroux was assessed a penalty, but the bigger story was that NHL disciplinary official Brendan Shannahan handed Giroux a 1-game suspension for the hit, meaning he will have to sit out Game 5.
The third period was more of the same. The Flyers did get more scoring opportunities than they did in the second period, but it still wasn’t enough. Martin Brodeur made the saves he had to, and Zubrus got the last laugh as he put in an empty-netter with under a minute left to cap the scoring at 4-2 Devils, giving them a 3-1 series lead with a chance to put the Flyers away Tuesday night in Philadelphia.
Revisiting the Keys to the Game:
My 3 keys to the game were the Flyers’ power play, stopping the Devils’ cycle, and the line changes. The Flyers did convert on an early power play and went 1-2 on the night, so they improved in that regard. However, the Devils continued to cycle the puck around the Flyers’ offensive zone at will for long stretches of the game, which was a major factor that contributed to the Flyers’ loss. The shuffled lines didn’t work out very well, as the Flyers failed to score an even-strength goal. They must improve defensively and gain some consistency on offense to have any hope of winning Game 5, let alone the series. While it will be tough to gain consistency on offense without Giroux in Game 5, if they don’t do that their season will be over. Game 5 is Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.