NEWARK, N.J. -- In Game 3 of the first round, the Philadelphia Flyers watched as a frustrated Pittsburgh Penguins' team completely lost focus and discipline. And the Flyers lauded their response to the Penguins' behavior throughout the series as a major reason they were able to advance to the second round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In Game 4 of their conference semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils, the Flyers looked a lot like that Penguins team, and after their 4-2 loss, appear headed down the same road.
Philadelphia, which entered the series leading the League in scoring at 4.68 goals per game, has seen its offense completely bottled up by the Devils. They've had single-digit shots on goal in eight of the last nine periods (not counting overtime in Game 3), and have totaled 10 or more shots in a period just twice in 12 regulation periods. And their power play, which looked so dominant in the first round, now is just 3-for-18.
FLYERS VS. DEVILS
Devils take 3-1 series lead with 4-2 winBy Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer
Dainius Zubrus scored a pair of goals -- including the decisive goal late in the second period -- and a suffocating defense did the rest as the New Jersey Devils scored a 4-2 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal on Sunday at Prudential Center. READ MORE ›
Compare that to the first round, when the Flyers had just 10 regulation periods in six games where they had single-digit shots on goals, and their power play went 12-for-23.
Some of that frustration became evident on the ice, as Scott Hartnell threw his gloves in disgust after being called for goaltender interference late in the first period, and Claude Giroux, after yelling at one of the officials, skated up the ice and hit Devils forward Dainius Zubrus in the head with his shoulder, earning a two-minute penalty for illegal head contact -- a penalty that allows for supplementary discipline at the discretion of the NHL Player Safety Department.
"It's frustrating," Giroux said. "Our whole season we've been outworking every team, and now it's the other way around. I don't know what to tell you."
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said the two most obvious incidents -- Giroux's hit on Zubrus and Hartnell's glove tossing -- were signs of frustration in the moment.
"[Hartnell] probably thinks he doesn't deserve a penalty and he's frustrated because of it," Laviolette said. "And I think Claude probably thinks [Devils goalie] Martin Brodeur played the puck outside the [trapezoid] and showed frustration because of it. … There definitely was frustration, but it was for the things that happened just prior to that."
However, there have been other signs of frustration, like a complete inability to slow a Devils offense that has seemed to hold the puck in the Philadelphia end for entire periods at a time. In the second period, the Flyers went the first 13:51 without a shot, the third time in the series New Jersey has completely shut down the Philadelphia offense.
"Frustrating, it's disappointing, the way we're spending too much time defending," Danny Briere said. "For some reason we're stuck in our zone. We can't get out of it. … I don't know if it's the legs or how we're able to move the puck. It seems everything is difficult. All year we've been a team that's made crisp passes to get out of the zone, we make smart plays. All year we've been a team where we make heads-up plays. And right now we're forcing things, we're getting rid of … one guy will be in trouble and instead of making a good, hard play, we'll just give the struggle away to the next guy. It's all over the ice. We're not used to doing that. I don't know if its panic or if it's too much pressure or what is going on. We somehow have to find a way to make better plays, to make crisp passes to get out of our zone. We're making things way too difficult on ourselves than it should be.
"We make them look good by forcing, making bad plays, making bad turnovers, where usually we use the easy option. Right now we're forcing things through, we're slapping the puck away. We're not a slapping-the-puck team. We're a team that has a lot of talent offensively, but right now we're not using it."
Figuring it out starts Monday when the team meets for practice. But whatever frustration they're feeling right now, defenseman Kimmo Timonen said now is not the time for that.
"Everybody's frustrated," he said. "Now is not the time to get frustrated. It's time to pay attention to detail and look at the tape and what we can do better. We're still alive. It's not over. But we have to be much better if we want to win Tuesday. We got a lot of work to do [Monday]."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK