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Devils' PK starting to rediscover previous success

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- Now that the New Jersey Devils have evened their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Philadelphia Flyers after two games, will the team be able to carry over the tremendous momentum they're riding into Thursday's Game 3 at Prudential Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC)?

In notching a 4-1 victory over the Flyers in Game 2 on Tuesday, the Devils scored four goals in a single period of a road playoff game for the first time in their history. They won just about every puck battle, bottled the Flyers up in the neutral zone and frustrated them to no end.


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"I think when you get to this point in the year, a lot of games are decided on puck battles and will, races and getting to those 50/50 pucks," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "Everyone has structure, so, to me, it comes down to will and battles on any given night. I think they did a better job in the second and third period of Game 1 and we did a better job in the second and third period of Game 2."

Additionally, that penalty-killing unit that struggled so mightily against the Florida Panthers in the team's opening-round series triumph appears alive and kicking once again.

"[Florida] has a great power play and our PK was a little up and down during that series," Devils rookie forward Adam Henrique said. "That's something we worked on the last couple of games."

The Flyers finished 0-for-5 on the power play, marking the first time this postseason they didn't register a power-play goal. The Devils have killed 10 of 11 power-play attempts in this series.

"I think one of the biggest things we've done on the penalty-kill is we've done a better job on faceoffs," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "It's so important when you win that initial draw and get that initial clear. That's 10 to 15 seconds off the clock when you win the draw and clear it out.

"Even for us on the power play, it's hard to break it out and break it in and get full possession. It's not an easy thing to do but that's our strength … not allowing teams to set up, winning the faceoff, getting that first clear and pressuring at the right time."

For good measure, defenseman Bryce Salvador even picked up the team's first shorthanded goal of the postseason, albeit into an empty net with 2:51 remaining after the Flyers pulled Ilya Bryzgalov for an extra attacker.

The Panthers finished with a 33.3 percent power-play efficiency (9-for-27) against the Devils in the opening round, a stat made even more eye-catching because the Devils only allowed 27 power-play goals in 82 regular-season games to finish with a modern-day NHL record 89.6-percent efficiency on the penalty-kill.

"New Jersey is doing a great job," Flyers rookie forward Matt Read said. "They are taking away all of our passing lanes. They are keeping us on the half wall. We've got to get to the puck more and shoot it and keep it simple."

Despite their recent struggles against the Devils on the power play, the Flyers still lead the playoff field with a 38.2-percent efficiency with the man advantage (13-for-34).

"I thought our penalty kill was a real factor in Game 2," DeBoer said. "It took away their momentum, and gave us momentum and confidence. That's a good feeling -- a feeling we had most of the year. You have to give Florida credit, they found a way early in that series to poke some holes in our PK, and we struggled with a little bit with confidence for a few of those games. But we have it back on track and where we want it right now, and we must continue that."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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