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Larsson's return sparks Devils in Game 2

by Mike G. Morreale

PHILADELPHIA -- New Jersey Devils rookie defenseman Adam Larsson doesn't believe he'll get many chances like the one that prompted the monumental comeback against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal round at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday.

So he made certain it was a memorable one.

Adam Larsson
Adam Larsson
Defense - NJD
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 1
SOG: 2 | +/-: 2
Larsson scored the first playoff goal of his career in his first postseason game at the 3:08 mark of the third period to trigger a four-goal assault by the Devils en route to a 4-1 victory to even the best-of-seven series, 1-1. The Devils will host the Flyers in Game 3 at Prudential Center on Thursday.

"I'm not a goal scorer, so of course it was [better than I could have imagined]," Larsson said. "I was happy for that, and I think you can see that we get everybody going after that. We score two, three, four there, so it was very important I think. We were wearing them down pretty good there."

Thing is, Larsson had been a healthy scratch for five of the team's last six regular-season games and sat for the first eight playoff games. He was finally given an opportunity in Game 2 when leading scorer Ilya Kovalchuk was earlier declared out with a lower-body injury.

Larsson filled in on defense for Peter Harrold, who was moved to fourth-line right wing alongside Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta. Devils coach Pete DeBoer basically moved all his right wings up one line in Kovalchuk's absence.


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"I've been out for three weeks, so I just tried to make the first best option," Larsson said. "As the game went on, and I got the timing in my stick back a little bit, it was nice. I was a little bit rusty in the first five, ten minutes, but the longer the game went, I felt pretty good."

It was also nice to get that first postseason goal at a time when his team needed it most.

"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," Larsson said. "I would say it was my biggest goal [of the season]."

During Larsson's absence from the lineup, the Devils went 9-4, including 4-4 in the playoffs. There was speculation that the 6-foot-3 Swede might have lost a step after taking a hit from Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban in a Feb. 2 game at Prudential Center. He missed 10 games from Feb. 4-24 with a bruised lower back and, upon his return, had just two assists and a minus-1 rating in 16 games.

But that was long forgotten in a jubilant Devils' locker room after the game.

"He hasn't played in a long time and I thought he had a great game and a huge goal," captain Zach Parise said. "It's great to see because it could be tough for a young player. He hasn't played in a while, but he didn't look like he missed a step … and that was a great shot."

Larsson -- the fourth overall selection at last year's draft -- finished with 13:15 of ice time on 18 shifts, took two shots, delivered a game-high five hits and finished with a plus-2 rating. The Devils outhit the Flyers, 32-24.

Craig Wolanin is the only other Devils' defenseman to score a goal in his NHL postseason debut. Not bad for a 19-year-old.

"I think I was as excited as [Larsson] was [when he scored]," Devils forward David Clarkson said. "He's a great kid in this locker room. The way he's handled himself … he's been out of the lineup and comes back and scores the big goal. There's not a better young kid in the League you can ask for than him, so it was pretty exciting to see him score."

DeBoer was certainly happy to see Larsson make the most of his opportunity.

"It's great for him … I mean, here's a kid who sat for eight games and worked to keep himself in shape and jumps into a playoff game and does what he does," DeBoer said. "It says a lot about his character."

Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador echoed those sentiments.

"He hasn't played in about a month, however long it's been, but comes in during the second round of playoffs in Philly," Salvador said. "To have the composure he did, and come in and score a big goal, that's a credit to him."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale

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