NEWARK, N.J. — Brian Boucher had
23 saves in his first playoff start in eight years and the Philadelphia
Flyers beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1 in Game 1 of their first-round
Eastern Conference series Wednesday night.
Big Chris Pronger and Mike Richards
scored second-period goals as the Flyers rode the momentum of claiming
the NHL's last playoff berth on the final day of the regular season to
yet another win over New Jersey.
While the Flyers are the No. 7 seed in
the conference, they won five of six games against the Devils in the
regular season and second-seeded New Jersey had few answers in the
postseason against a rock-solid Boucher.
With the win, the Flyers grabbed
home-ice advantage, heading into Friday night's game in the best-of-7
series, which also will be played at the Prudential Center.
The loss has to be a major concern for
the Devils, who have been knocked out of the playoffs in the opening
round the last two seasons.
New Jersey gave its unhappy fans some
hope when Travis Zajac scored on a somewhat flubbed slap shot that
seemed to bounce in front of Boucher with 2:43 to play.
Boucher, however, stopped Patrik Elias
in close with about 10 seconds to go and the Flyers cleared the puck
out of the zone on the ensuing faceoff.
The Devils' performance was so inept
that their fans were booing the Atlantic Division winners at the end of
the second period and near the end of a 4-minute power play early in the
third period, an advantage that resulted in two shots.
Boucher, who inherited the Flyers'
starting job because of injuries to Ray Emery and Michael Leighton,
wasn't overly tested. His best period was the first, when he stopped
nine shots. The best of that bunch was a snapping glove save on a
25-footer by Ilya Kovalchuk and stops in close on Zach Parise and Zajac.
But Boucher's play was similar to his
rookie season in 2000 when he was in net for the Flyers-Devils
conference final series. New Jersey won in seven games.
Other than that, Boucher's only other
playoff start was in 2002 for Philadelphia.
Pronger provided the go-ahead goal at
9:25 of the second period, scoring in front on a power play. Richards
fired a bad angle shot at Martin Brodeur. Simon Gagne nudged the rebound
in the crease and Pronger, who was acquired in a major trade with
Anaheim last June, backhanded a shot off the skate of Devils forward
Brian Rolston into the net.
Richards doubled the lead a little
more than seven minutes later with a 35-foot shot that beat Brodeur low
to the glove side. Ian Laperrierre set up the goal, taking the puck from
Devils defenseman Martin Skoula near the blue line and finding Richards
alone between the circles.
The Flyers iced the game killing off a
double minor to defenseman Oskars Bartulis and another minor to Braydon
Coburn. New Jersey was 0-for-5 on the power play.
Brodeur, who won 45 games in the
regular season, faced only 14 shots, including two in the third period.
LW Jay Pandolfo was a healthy
scratch, snapping a streak of 123 consecutive playoff game appearances
with the Devils. … Boucher last appeared in a playoff game in 2008,
when he mopped up for 2 minutes for the San Jose Sharks. … Pronger and
Richards teamed with Brodeur on Canada's gold-medal winning team. …
The crowd of 17,625 was a sellout and most of the fans were wearing
Devils red. … The victory marked the first time the Flyers have won a
Game 1 in a series since 2004 against Tampa Bay. They had lost six
straight opening games and eight of 10.
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