ECSF Game 4 Recap: Zubrus and Zidlickymania rock Flyers
(a condensed version of @JerseyGuy276‘s headline)
Three stars of the game:
3rd star: Marek Zidlicky (Goal, assist, 4 shots)
2nd star: Martin Brodeur (20 saves, assist)
1st star: Dainius Zubrus (2 goals, +2 rating)
The New Jersey Devils broke a series tie with their Game 3 overtime win over the Flyers, and on Sunday night, they extended their series lead to 3-1, and are now just one win away from their first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals since 2003. Sunday night featured another dominating all-around performance by the surging Devils, who nearly doubled the shot output of the opposing Flyers. Martin Brodeur celebrated his 40th birthday in style, turning aside 20 pucks and leading his team to victory, as the series heads back to Philadelphia on Tuesday night for Game 5, when the Devils will have their first chance to knock the Flyers out of the playoffs.
The Devils are proving that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. While the Devils got off to a good start in Game 4, things weren’t going their way. After outplaying the Flyers for most of the opening ten minutes, the Devils found themselves shorthanded. Travis Zajac was called for interference in the Flyers’ zone, and they cashed in right away. Scott Hartnell’s deflection of a Claude Giroux shot made it 1-0 Flyers. Minutes later, and on a power play of their own, the Devils got into more trouble. The Flyers rushed up the ice shorthanded on a partial 2-on-1, and Claude Giroux drove to the net, popping a rebound home over Martin Brodeur to make it 2-0 Flyers.
Despite being down two goals, the Devils never panicked or let up. They accepted what happened and went back to work. Luckily, they got a goal right back on the same power play that cost them a shorthanded goal. Marek Zidlicky released a wrist shot that was intentionally wide of the net, and Petr Sykora re-directed it past the right skate of Ilya Bryzgalov. The Flyers goaltender got a piece of the puck, but slid it into his own net. Suddenly, it was 2-1. With less than two minutes remaining in the period, they scored again. This time, Bryce Salvador’s shot was going wide of net, but Zidlicky came down from the point and re-directed it past Bryzgalov to tie the game. After Scott Hartnell knocked himself into Brodeur, the Devils finished the period on a power play, but couldn’t convert.
The Devils never looked back after overcoming the early 2-0 deficit. They dominated the Flyers on the shot clock, 16-7 in the first period and 16-5 in the second period. The Devils’ forecheck caused headaches for the Flyers in Games 2 and 3 of the series, but they seemed to turn it up another level on Sunday. Unfortunately, the forecheck did not directly lead to goals in the second period. Bryzgalov came up humongous big (I really couldn’t resist), with stops on Petr Sykora on a 2-on-1 rush, Travis Zajac from the slot, and perhaps his best save of the series came on a stuff-in try by Steve Bernier right in front of the net. Bryzgalov sprawled out with his glove to stop Bernier just before the puck reached the goal line.
Late in the second period, the Devils finally connected on one of their chances. They failed to convert on a 2-on-1 rush, but Adam Henrique hustled to the corner and won a puck battle against the Flyers’ defense. Philly lost Dainius Zubrus in coverage, and they allowed him to skate right in front of Bryzgalov. Henrique fed Zubrus, who buried his first goal since Game 1 against Florida, and the Devils took a 3-2 lead. In the final seconds of the second period, a frustrated Claude Giroux, who felt penalty calls weren’t going in his team’s way, went out of his way to deliver a head shot on Zubrus. Luckily, Dainius was not injured on the play. Giroux was assessed a two minute check to the head penalty and may face further discipline by the NHL prior to Game 5 in Philly.
The Devils didn’t get anything on the power play that carried into the third period, and that allowed the Flyers a chance to tie the game. Martin Brodeur made a strong save on a good sequence by the Flyers and a shot by Hartnell. The period featured lots of puck possession for the Flyers, but only 10 shots on goal. Brodeur was able to control his rebounds and the Devils worked hard to keep the puck away from the net. At 16:24 of the period, the Flyers’ push for overtime was greatly hurt when Kimmo Timonen was forced to take a penalty on Henrique, which prevented a clean 2-on-1 for Henrique. The Devils didn’t score on the power play, but they held the puck for the entire two minutes and didn’t give up any shorthanded chances.
Once the Flyers pulled Bryzgalov and time winded into the final minute of regulation, the Devils clogged up the neutral zone, and Zubrus forced a turnover. He was hooked on a breakaway, but the puck rolled into the empty net anyway, and the Devils had the 4-2 goal and held the Flyers off for the final seconds. The Devils lead the series 3-1 now and head to Philadelphia for Game 5 on Tuesday. If the Devils continue their forechecking dominance, they could be on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals to face either the Capitals or Rangers.
Game notes: As mentioned earlier, Zubrus’ first goal of the game was his first since the Devils’ second goal of Game 1 in Florida. Brodeur became the first goaltender to play in a playoff game as a teenager and as a 40-year old. He also picked up his third assist of the postseason (on Zubrus’ empty netter), which is tied for the most points by a goalie in a single playoff season. The Devils had no goals from defensemen in the first round, but got goals from Adam Larsson and Bryce Salvador in Game 2. They got a goal and assist from Marek Zidlicky tonight, as well as assists from Salvador and Mark Fayne. The Flyers didn’t have the puck much in the game, but they did win 40 of 64 faceoffs. They were also credited with 20 giveaways, while the Devils had just five.
Much of the post-game talk was about Giroux’s hit on Dainius Zubrus late in the second period. The video of the hit is available on YouTube. My personal opinion is that Giroux let out his frustration on Zubrus, and was intending to go after him. According to TSN’s stats guru, Giroux hit Zubrus 29 frames after the puck was off Zubrus’ stick, meaning the hit was delivered approximately one full second after Zubrus had the puck. The hit targeted Zubrus’ head. The league will also consider that no apparent injury was suffered by Zubrus. I think this was similar to Alexander Ovechkin’s reckless hit on Dan Girardi of the Rangers on Saturday. Both should deserve some kind of discipline by the NHL.
What do you think? Should Giroux sit out any length of time for his hit on Zubrus? Drop a comment below and tell us what you think.
Posted on May 7, 2012, in Devils Army, Game Recap, New Jersey Devils, NHL and tagged dainius zubrus, Marek Zidlicky, Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils, NHL, Philadelphia Flyers, Prudential Center, Stanley Cup Playoffs, The Rock. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.