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Devils beat Flyers 4-1 to even series

by Adam Kimelman
PHILADELPHIA -- The New Jersey Devils kept pushing and pushing -- and finally cracked Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

David Clarkson scored off the rebound of a Zach Parise shot at 11:17 of the third period to snap a 1-1 tie and New Jersey took advantage of Philadelphia's non-existent offense to even the teams' Eastern Conference Semifinal series with a 4-1 win in Game 2 at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday.

The series shifts up the New Jersey Turnpike for Games 3 and 4 at Prudential Center on Thursday and Sunday.

Adam Larsson, Travis Zajac and Bryce Salvador also scored for the Devils, who scored four goals in a period for the first time ever in the playoffs. Goalie Martin Brodeur stopped 19 of 20 shots as New Jersey played perhaps its best game of the postseason despite the absence of star forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who sat with a lower-body injury.
It was precisely the effort coach Peter DeBoer said he expected from his team.

"Our backs are against the wall with [Kovalchuk] out," he said. "I'm not surprised we responded the way we did. … I knew we'd be better than Game 1. There were some obvious reasons we ran out of gas a little in Game 1. I knew we'd bounce back. We've dealt with adversity and injuries all year and I really thought we'd have a great game tonight and we did."

Without Kovalchuk, team captain Parise knew his team would have to play a better all-round game, including finding more offense from different players.

"He's a huge part of our team and internally we knew that everyone had to be a little better not having him in the lineup and tonight we responded well," Parise said. "We got contributions from everyone and our defense getting involved and getting some goals … all-round team game was good."

Matt Read scored the Flyers' lone goal.

Bryzgalov played a strong game, making 31 saves, but got no support from an offense that generated little after averaging a League-best 4.86 goals through its first seven playoff games.

The game turned when the Flyers, under pressure from a heavy New Jersey forecheck, couldn't clear the puck. Sean Couturier had the best crack at it but Patrik Elias poked it away from him, where it rolled to Parise. Bryzgalov stopped his shot from the high slot, but Clarkson drove to the net to bang in the rebound.

"I saw all of them going over to the side and I took a little gamble by staying in front of the net there," Parise said. "[Elias] punched it out to me and Bryz poke checked the puck away as I was trying to make a move and Clarkie got the rebound and put it in."

After scoring a career-best 30 goals in the regular season, the goal was Clarkson's first of the postseason.

"The team has been winning in the playoffs and I don't think it was something I was thinking about," he said. "I was playing my game all series and the points were coming [six assists], but I wasn't putting the puck in. Great play by Zach to take it to the net and it landed on my stick."

It was a tough loss for Bryzgalov, who multiple Flyers called the team's best player.  

"He was our best player by far today," defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "He was solid out there, he played really well, gave us the chance to win the game, but we couldn’t get that for him. He was good."

"I think he was our best player by far," added rookie forward Eric Wellwood, who had a team-high four shots, "and one of the best games I've seen him play in a long time. … I wish we could have gotten the win for him."

Read gave the Flyers the lead just 2:53 into the game. He took a nice backhand feed from Brayden Schenn and cut through the slot, pulling Brodeur out of position. Read's initial shot hit the bottom of the outside of the net, but the puck went to Schenn behind the net. He gave the puck back to Read in the bottom of the right circle, and the rookie fired a shot from a sharp angle that went past Brodeur's glove.

That was the extent of the Philadelphia offense, which totaled just 11 shots over the final two periods.

"I think having a one goal lead we just kind of came out on our heels and we didn't give them the respect they needed," Read said. "They are a great hockey team. We came out flat and they took advantage of that and out-played us in the second and the third."

The second period was the worst of the postseason by the Flyers, as they managed just two shots on net, with the first coming with just 87 seconds remaining the period. Meanwhile, the Devils put 12 shots on Bryzgalov, including two on a power play midway through the period.

"They were the better team today, no question about it," Timonen said. "When our skating is off, it looks like that. Our skating was off and these games are all about skating and speed nowadays. If you don't have it you're going to be in trouble and we were in trouble today."

It was similar to the first period of Game 1, when Philadelphia went 10:01 before getting its first shot. At that point, the Devils had 11 shots and a 1-0 lead, but Bryzgalov was responsible for keeping it a one-goal game.

Bryzgalov was even better in Game 2. He stopped rookie Adam Henrique from the slot with 11:45 left in the period, and then a minute later slammed the door on Dainius Zubrus from right in front. With the team a man down, he slid across nicely to stop a shot from left circle by Peter Harrold.

"Bryz, he was phenomenal," Laviolette said. "But we have to do a better job in front of him. … They were quicker, they were more competitive on the puck than we were.
"We weren't skating the way we needed to be."

The Flyers escaped the second period with the lead, but Bryzgalov finally cracked 3:08 into third. With the teams skating 4-on-4, Larsson -- playing his first game since the regular-season finale -- pinched in to take a pass from Zubrus and snap a wrist shot from near the right faceoff dot that went over Bryzgalov's glove.

The goal was the first for Larsson, the fourth pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, since Nov. 26.

"Great for Larsson," DeBoer said. "Here's a kid who's sat for eight games and worked to keep himself in shape and jumps into a playoff game and does what he does. Says a lot about his character."

"I don't get too many opportunities like that so I just tried to get it to the net and saw it was pretty open there on that side and shoot it," Larsson said. "I would say it was my biggest goal."

Zajac added an insurance goal when he circled behind the net and tucked the puck inside the right post with 4:59 left.

Salvador added a shorthanded empty-net goal with 2:51 left. The Flyers pulled Bryzgalov for an extra attacker after Zubrus took an interference penalty, but Salvador jumped on a tipped puck and flipped it the length of the ice for his first goal since March 10, 2010 -- a span of 112 games, including playoffs.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on  Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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