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Flyers survive slow start

by Adam Kimelman /

PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers coach Peter Laviolette had spent seven days being asked pretty much the same question -- how his team would handle a long layoff -- and had pretty much the same answer each time.

"That question got asked a lot this week, what's going to happen, how are you going to be after the layoff," he said. "I answered, 'I don't know,' because the truth of the matter is you don't really know. You don't know if your team is going to come out and be jumping or whether it's going to take a bit."


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"A bit," turned into the entire first period, as the Flyers didn't get their first shot until 9:59 was left in the first period. By then, the New Jersey Devils had put 11 pucks on Philadelphia goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and had taken a 1-0 lead in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

It was seven days between the Flyers' win in Game 6 of the first round against the Penguins and the start of the second round against the Devils. In that time the Flyers practiced six days, usually up-tempo, skating-oriented drills. The two previous days saw more of the game plan the Flyers were going to use against the Devils implemented. Regardless, though, it's hard to simulate game conditions in a practice setting.

"We had seven days off and obviously we had some really hard practices during the week, but practices and playing games are a totally different thing," defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "You can talk and you can try to make yourself ready for the game, but we were rusty in the first period … everything was off.

"They came out really hard. They were skating, forechecking [and] we weren't. We were standing still. We looked like we were off for seven days."

"Nobody liked the first period," Laviolette said. "Players didn't like it, I didn't like it, fans didn't like it. And we're not going to be successful playing that way."

Credit for keeping the deficit at just one goal was given to Bryzgalov. He stopped 14 of the 15 shots New Jersey had in the first 20 minutes, including a great sliding stop on Patrik Elias in the game's first minute, and another nice stop on a David Clarkson shot that was partially blocked by Philadelphia defenseman Nicklas Grossmann midway through.

"The good thing is Bryz was strong," Danny Briere said. "Bryz kept us in the first period. There's so much intensity in playoff hockey, sitting back for a week, not being in that mood, kind of set us back a little bit. Jersey had come off a huge win, they were still in that same mind frame … and they came out swinging. We were fortunate that Bryz kept it close."

The Flyers found the pace at the start of the second, getting goals from Briere and James van Riemsdyk 37 seconds apart midway through the period to take the lead and steal the momentum of the game en route to a 4-3 overtime win and a 1-0 series lead.

From midway through the first period through the end of the game, the Flyers outshot the Devils 36-15, including 22-8 in the third period and overtime.

"I'm happy to see the response from our team after the first period and in the last 45 minutes," Laviolette said. "It was a strong effort from that point out."

"It looked pretty good to me the next 45, 50 minutes," Timonen added. "That's the way we have to keep going."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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