He has seen 3-1 deficits before and has gotten his teams over the hurdle. In 2003, Lemaire’s Minnesota Wild rallied from down 3-1 in the postseason’s first two rounds during their run to the 2003 Western Conference Final.
Does he think this year’s Devils can manage the same?
“Definitely,” the head coach said after Wednesday’s practice. “Because there’s good players here. They have to get on the same page. They have to play the same way, all the time. Not two periods, they have to play three periods. That’s what we missed pretty much all year, since Day One. It’s tough to say, but that’s the problem that we had the whole time.”
It will be a challenge. The Devils have dropped eight of 10 to the Flyers this season, including Sunday’s 4-1 loss in Game 4. New Jersey split the first two games of the series at home before coming up short in both games at Wachovia Center.
Jersey’s Team hasn’t won three in a row since December. But they’ll need a three-game winning streak, plus a rare triumph in Philadelphia, in order to reach the second round for the first time since 2007.
Lemaire says it can be done.
“When we feel good and when we play well, we change things,” he said. “Changing the way we play, the way we do this, the system. In the playoffs, this is the closest I’ve seen all year to do the longest we’ve been doing it. If we get that next step before the end, we’ll be fine.”
Time will also tell whether the Flyers losing Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne to injury will prove to be the Devils’ gain. The Flyers announced Wednesday that both forwards will undergo right foot surgery after getting hit with shots in Game 4.
Carter’s absence could be a major boon for New Jersey. The Philadelphia centerman picked up his first points of the series on Tuesday, notching two power-play goals and an assist. Ilya Kovalchuk
said the Devils need to come out and play their game, regardless of who’s in the Flyers’ lineup.
“Right now, we have to focus on ourselves,” said the left winger. “It doesn’t matter who we’re going to play against, it doesn’t matter who’s going to play who, you just have to be better than the other guy in front of you.”
Kovalchuk rebounded from a shotless outing in Game 3 to record a power-play goal on six shots in Game 4. With two goals and four assists, Kovalchuk is tied with the Flyers’ Mike Richards for the series lead in goals (2), assists (4) and points (6).
"Kovy" sounded ready to do whatever’s necessary to ensure his second trip to the NHL’s postseason doesn’t end prematurely.
“Everybody has to take that challenge and be better because we can’t lose anymore,” he said. “We have to play with an edge. We have so much experience here, some guys have gone through that stuff already. I’m sure they’re going to give us some advice before the game. We have to stick up for each other and play together.”Martin Brodeur
is one of four current players to have experienced the Devils’ series rally against the Flyers in 2000. Patrik Elias
’s winning goal in Game 7 capped a comeback from a 3-1 hole in the conference finals.
Brodeur acknowledged that the team is a decade removed that historic rebound.
“It’s doable,” Brodeur said. “It’s something that, again, the situation because we’re home, you want to force them to try and close it out in their building. It’s tough to do. One of the toughest things to do is close out a series. You start taking a game here, a game there, and it gets a little tighter. The other team gets momentum.”
Brodeur and the Devils have been on the other end, too. They let a 3-1 series lead slip away in the 2003 conference final against Ottawa. Jeff Friesen got the winner for New Jersey in Game 7 and they went on to a Cup victory over Anaheim.
“It was tough,” Brodeur said. “That Game 7, our confidence was out the window. We got a couple of breaks in the game and we won that game. These are the things you try to put in your head to hopefully build off of it and get some momentum because we haven’t been able to create anything so far.”
More than anything, the Devils want to prevent a third straight first-round playoff exit on home ice and force a Game 6 at Philadelphia on Sunday. Game 7, if necessary, would return to the Rock on Tuesday.
“It’s disappointing for your fans when they come to support you and the last game you’re going to play is in front of them,” Brodeur said. “You try to push the envelope as far as you can, and right now, it’s only one game that we’re looking at.
“Things like that, we’ve been in situations like that and playing at home has always pretty been good. In the playoffs, that’s been a little tougher for us in the last few years. Now we need a big game to show our fans that we’re going to play for them also.” NJD NOTES
Brodeur hoisted two of his three Stanley Cups on the ice in the Meadowlands, but said Wednesday that the Devils’ current home – Prudential Center – is a cut above their former digs at Continental Airlines Arena.
“It’s a lot better even though the success hasn’t been here,” Brodeur said. “I think the crowds are unbelievable, the way the building is made compared to Continental. But I played some of the greatest games I’ve played in my career at Continental, so it’s kind of a tough one to say. But this building in the Stanley Cup Finals would be pretty cool.”