ECSF Game 2 Recap: Larsson in, Devils win…simple math?!

2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2, New Jersey Devils vs Philadelphia Flyers

(headline by @jmanagh08)

Honorable mention headlines:

“Devils commit grand Larsson-y on Flyers” (@tlund625), also got a “Grand Larsson-y” from (@WhatTheDevils)

“Up and Adam” (@NoQualms11)

Three stars of the game:

3rd star: Zach Parise (Assist, 4 shots)

2nd star: David Clarkson (Goal, 3 shots)

1st star: Ilya Bryzgalov (31 saves)

One thing we’ve learned about the Devils so far in the playoffs is that they’re going to respond to adversity with resilience.  They responded to a difficult loss in Game 3 against Florida with a 4-0 shutout win in Game 4, they then responded to a shutout loss in Game 5 by winning Game 6 in overtime and then surviving Florida’s heroic third period comeback in Game 7 when Adam Henrique won the game in double-overtime.  They faced another challenge after Game 1.  Not only did they drop the game in overtime, they lost their leading point and goal scorer for Game 2, as Ilya Kovalchuk battles an apparent lower-body injury.  Once again, the Devils battled their way to a 4-1 victory over the Flyers in Game 2 to even the best-of-seven Conference Semifinals with Philadelphia.

Without Kovalchuk in the lineup, Peter Harrold moved from defense to forward and Adam Larsson made his playoff debut in Game 2.  After getting the game’s first scoring chance, Alexei Ponikarovsky failing to come up with a shot on net from the right circle, the Devils’ newly founded fourth line got out-matched by the Flyers’ fourth line.  The Devils defense lost Matt Read in coverage, and he skated right in front of Martin Brodeur with the puck.  His attempt went wide, but with Wayne Simmonds in front of the net and Brodeur still scrambling back to the left post, Brayden Schenn fed Read again, and he buried it this time to give the Flyers a lead just 2:53 into the game.  Less than a minute and a half later, the Devils dodged a bullet, as Danny Briere walked in from the right side and hit the right post.

The Devils then went on a power play, and the Flyers broke down in the neutral zone, allowing Zach Parise to skate in alone on Ilya Bryzgalov, and Parise beat Bryzgalov glove-side, but his shot hit the post at the other end.  The home side controlled play for most of the first period, but they didn’t get much on Brodeur (except some bodies, which Marty wasn’t too thrilled about), while the Devils continued to test Bryzgalov, after the Flyers goaltender allowed three questionable goals in Game 1.  After two failed power plays by the Devils and one by the Flyers, the first period ended with the Devils up 13-9 in the shot total.

The second period was a different story.  The Devils came out with much more confidence in the second period, as they killed off a Bryce Salvador penalty taken at the end of the first period before taking control of the game.  They outshot the Flyers, 12-0 in the first 18:30 of the period, but couldn’t manage to beat Bryzgalov, who played his best period of the playoffs so far.  Two of the best Devils chances came off the stick of Adam Henrique.  He skated in on a partial breakaway on one chance, but Bryzgalov shut his five-hole in time to stop it, and then Henrique found himself in position on a rebound of a blocked point shot.  Bryzgalov’s pads punched that shot aside as well.  The last shot the Devils had in the period was a Peter Harrold one-timer on the power play at 13:49.  At the end of the period, the Flyers drew a penalty and added two shots on Brodeur, but that ended a very dominant period by the Devils, despite being held scoreless.

So the Flyers held their 1-0 lead into the third period.  The Devils had a few seconds of Adam Henrique’s rare minor penalty late in the second to kill off, but they succeeded in that regard to keep the deficit at one goal.  At 3:08 of the third, they broke through offensively.  Dainius Zubrus held the puck around the right circle, and he fed the pinching Adam Larsson, who patiently waited before firing a wrister up high on Bryzgalov and tying the game, 1-1.  Not bad for a playoff debut, eh?  The Devils then fought off a potential push-back from the Flyers by trapping them in their own zone.  The Devils relentless forecheck kept Philly chasing the play, and eventually, the Devils broke through again.  Directly after a faceoff, the puck went to the corner to the left of Bryzgalov.  Braydon Coburn’s stick snapped, and the Flyers lost Zach Parise in coverage.  Parise found himself in front of Bryzgalov, who poke-checked the puck away, but right to David Clarkson, and Clarkson buried it and then climbed on top of the net, Superman-style.  The Devils took a 2-1 lead.

The 2-1 score lasted less than three minutes.  At 14:01 of the third period, Travis Zajac forced his way to the slot, and backhanded it into a crowd in front of the net.  Stephen Gionta took a swipe at the rebound, but Zajac got it back behind the net, skated around the left side and backhanded it over Bryzgalov’s pad and into the empty net to make it 3-1 Devils.  The Flyers pressed to try to get back in the game, and got some help from Zubrus, who took a penalty at 15:35, but with Bryzgalov on the bench and the Flyers with a 6-on-4 power play, Bryce Salvador picked up a loose puck in the Devils’ zone, flipped it out and it bounced into the empty net.  It comes as Salvador’s first goal (regular season or playoffs) in over 100 games, and it iced a 4-1 Devils win in the second game of the series.

I think it’s safe to say that Larsson’s playoff debut was a success.  He certainly looked good in the offensive zone, as he showed little fear of getting his shot on net early and often.  There was perhaps one pinch he made that resulted in a turnover, but his forwards backed him up and there was no harm from that.  The Devils did a tremendous job all night as they worked as a five-man unit on the ice.  They played a strong team game and a strong two-way game.  Forwards backchecked, defensemen pinched in offensively and they owned puck possession for most of the final 40 minutes.  Hopefully they can continue to play as a five-man unit and get a healthier Ilya Kovalchuk back in the lineup for Game 3 in New Jersey Thursday night.  They’ll look to use Game 2 as a boost to the rest of their series.

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Posted on May 2, 2012, in Game Recap, New Jersey Devils and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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