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Players meet, regroup for Game 4

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Jacques Lemaire says a team’s focus needs to be on what lies ahead.

His Devils are down 2-1 in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers following Sunday’s 3-2 overtime loss in Game 3. They hope to get back into the best-of-seven series when they play Game 4 at Wachovia Center on Tuesday.

“I think the mood would be disappointed in the way we played [Sunday], also understanding that it’s a long series and we have time to fix it,” captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. “I think we’re optimistic about improvements we can make to be better and what that will do for our outcome.”

New Jersey was outshot 34-19 in Game 3 and nursed a 2-2 tie into overtime, when Dan Carcillo won it for the Flyers. Lemaire held a player meeting on Monday, and expects the group to turn the page.

“We’re in the playoffs and what’s important is playing one game at a time,” Lemaire said. “You can’t live on the game that you played well or won, and the good thing is, when you lose, you try to get rid of that game so you can focus on the next one – that’s even more important.”

Winless in four visits to Philadelphia this season, the Devils will need more from their top talent. Brian Rolston tallied two power-play goals, but both Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias were held without a shot. Kovalchuk (1g-2a) and Elias (3a) each had three-point outings in the Devils’ 5-3 win in Game 2. Kovalchuk assisted on both Rolston markers.

“You’re here to win, you’re here to succeed as a team,” Elias said. “You’re trying to do everything possible. It happens that, not every night it’s going to go perfect. You have to push yourself, you have to find a way.”

Victory on Tuesday would get Jersey’s Team back on even ground. Martin Brodeur, who was sensational with 31 saves on Sunday, said winning is the best remedy for a frustrating defeat.

“That’s definitely a disappointing game [Sunday] – the outcome,” Brodeur said. “We’re looking forward to get back [Tuesday] and play a hard game. We’ve played decent hockey, but we didn’t peak yet in the way that we like to play. If we do that, we’ll be fine. Definitely, [Tuesday] is a big game for us to turn the tide in our favor.”

Langenbrunner has one assist in the series and says the team needs to play desperate on Tuesday.

“We’re playing not to lose instead of playing to win,” Langenbrunner said. “We’re playing cautious and we’re worried about making mistakes instead of just going out and playing the game.”

Lemaire says the Devils’ captain is “doing his job,” and thinks his best players know that their contributions are key. Additional pressure from the coaching staff isn’t always the answer.

“You always want more of a player,” said the coach. “You want him to get as many points as possible. It’s always there, but I know one thing, when you get on your top players and you’re talking about points, ‘You’ve got to get points, you’ve got to get a goal, you’ve got to get a goal,’ a lot of times you’re pushing in the wrong direction. You’re only going to give him more pressure, make him do different things that maybe it won’t be necessary to do for the benefit of the team.”

The series returns to Newark for Game 5 on Thursday. By then, the Devils will either be all even, or trying to stay alive.

“I think the importance of this game is pretty obvious,” Langenbrunner said. “You don’t want to go down 3-1. I think we believe if we come out and play the game we’re capable of, we’d be able to even up the series and then go from there. The key for us is getting what we’re capable of on the ice. That’s been lacking at times.”

Brodeur eyes fifth Vezina
On Monday, Brodeur was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy awarded to the NHL’s top goaltender. It’s the ninth nomination for Brodeur, who led the league in games played (77), wins (45), and shutouts (9).

He has won the award in four of the past six seasons, but was not in the running last year, when he missed 50 games with injury.

“It’s nice to be part of an elite group again,” Brodeur said.

Lemaire: Refs missed too many men call in OT
There were 13 penalties called in Sunday’s contest, but Lemaire felt the referees missed a big one in overtime. He said the Devils bench spotted the Flyers with an extra man on the ice just before David Clarkson’s interference minor at 1:30 of the extra session.

Carcillo’s game-winner came just seconds after Clarkson had exited the box.

“You guys saw the replay?” Lemaire asked reporters on Monday’s conference call. “There was five guys, and nobody talked about them having too many guys just before our penalty. Nobody saw that. We were yelling, the guy was at center ice. Nobody said a word about this. That is before the winning goal.”

Elias said the bench couldn’t get referees to notice.

“The whole bench kind of saw it, at least the guys that were on the bench,” Elias said. “For about five, maybe 10 seconds, they had three defensemen there. I think the whole bench tried to let the referees know, but it didn’t happen. They didn’t notice.” 

Power play performs in Game 3
With Rolston’s two power-play goals, Elias said the Devils were satisfied with what they were able to achieve on special teams. Kovalchuk assisted on both.

“We had eight power plays and we scored two goals,” Elias said. “I think we would take that anytime to have 25 percent success. On the other hand, we didn’t create on those power plays enough opportunities, and that carries momentum to the 5-on-5 play. You don’t have to score all the time, but if you have chances, if you have opportunities, it carries into the game. Our game for sure the second half, we were just too hesitant. We played not to lose. When we’re on top of things, when we’re on top of the game, we just push the game through our speed, through our intensity and it just gives the other team problems. We have to let them adjust to us.”

Parise hopes to break free of Philly D
Zach Parise, who had a goal and an assist in Game 2, was held scoreless on Sunday. The Devils’ leader with 38 goals and 44 assists in the regular season, Parise has been a target of the Flyers’ physical game.

He says that’s to be expected this time of year.

“Playoffs are always pretty physical,” Parise said. “I just think you have to use your linemates more. They’ve been doing a pretty good job of taking away our time and space with the puck. I just think that we have to [get] 2-on-1s even more often, we have to get closer support and just use our linemates more. I think that’s going to make a big difference, and it definitely allowed them to cause turnovers right away.”
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