PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Robert Esche stood in the crease, raised his arms and
jumped while teammates mobbed him. Martin Brodeur put his head down and slowly
skated off the ice.
Esche again outplayed Brodeur, and Danny Markov scored on a long shot with
5:23 left, helping the Philadelphia Flyers eliminate the defending Stanley Cup
champion New Jersey Devils with a 3-1 victory in Game 5 of their first-round
``It was exciting,'' said Esche, who started his first playoff series. ``I
could feel the ice shake. I didn't think the crowd could get that loud. I
didn't think anything could get that loud.''
Markov's shot from just inside the blue line sailed by defenseman Colin
White, past Brodeur, hit the left post and went in, a fitting way for the
Flyers to end years of frustration against the Devils, who won three
championships the previous nine years.
``I couldn't see the puck, so I was looking high,'' said Brodeur, who hardly
resembled a reigning Vezina Trophy winner in the series. ``Next thing I knew it
was at the bottom of the circle and I had a foot to react.''
Alexei Zhamnov also scored for Philadelphia, which advances to the second
round for the second straight year. Sami Kapanen added an empty-net goal in the
Scott Niedermayer scored the only goal for New Jersey.
``It's a little shocking,'' Niedermayer said. ``We set our goals a lot
higher. We wanted to be playing longer than this.''
New Jersey had been Philadelphia's nemesis for years, beating the Flyers in
the conference finals in 1995, and 2000 when the Devils rallied from a 3-1
series deficit. Earlier this season, Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said his team
had a psychological disadvantage against the Devils.
But after starting the season series 0-2-1, Philadelphia won the final three
regular-season games against the Devils, and four of five in the playoffs.
``Because they are the Devils, because they are so hated in Philadelphia,
it's rewarding to beat them,'' Flyers captain Keith Primeau said.
Esche finished with 31 saves, and allowed nine goals in the series on 155
shots. He wasn't named the starting goalie until after the season ended,
beating out veteran Sean Burke for the spot.
Zhamnov gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead with 6:22 left in the first, scoring into
an open net after a crisp pass from Tony Amonte.
Zhamnov, acquired from Chicago two months ago, had three goals and four
assists in the series. A 12-year NHL veteran, Zhamnov had two goals in just
three trips to the playoffs with Winnipeg and the Blackhawks.
Niedermayer tied it at 1 with 6:24 left in the second. He backhanded a shot
past Esche during a flurry by the Devils. Niedermayer's goal snapped a
scoreless drought of 106 minutes, 26 seconds for New Jersey.
Zhamnov sped past Niedermayer early in the third and slipped a shot past
Brodeur, who turned around and stopped the puck before it went in.
But Brodeur couldn't handle Markov's shot minutes later, allowing a rare
soft goal. He finished with 37 saves.
Esche made a nice save on a wrist shot by Patrik Elias late in the third,
and made a few stops in the final minute.
The Devils missed perennial All-Star defenseman Scott Stevens, who sat out
the series with post-concussion syndrome.
``It certainly would have made a difference to have him out there,'' Devils
coach Pat Burns said.
New Jersey scored a goal that was negated by a penalty during its first
power play. Paul Martin slapped a shot past Esche seconds after Jeff Friesen
hooked Keith Primeau in the corner.
``I have seen some really special things,'' Hitchcock said. ``This team
showed something in the third period that is impressive and hopefully a sign of
things to come.''