GAME: Philadelphia Flyers at New Jersey Devils.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinal; Flyers lead 2-0.
TIME: Monday, 7 p.m. EDT.
During their run to the Stanley Cup last year, the New Jersey Devils did not
face a must-win game until their third series of the playoffs.
While a loss Monday won't eliminate them from the postseason, the Devils
really have to win to have any hope of advancing to the second round.
With Martin Brodeur getting outplayed and Scott Stevens unlikely to be
ready, the Devils must regroup as they return home trying to avoid a 3-0 series
deficit in their quarterfinal matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Plenty of teams have overcome 3-1 deficits, including three last season, but
no team in 29 years has won a series after losing the first three games. The
New York Islanders did it in 1975 and the only other club to do it was Toronto
New Jersey did erase a 3-1 deficit to beat Philadelphia in the 2000 Eastern
The Devils opened this series by losing 3-2 in both games at Philadelphia.
Last year, they defeated Boston and Tampa Bay in five games, then needed seven
to beat Ottawa in the conference finals and Anaheim in the Stanley Cup finals.
"Obviously the pressure's on us a little bit more," New Jersey center
Scott Gomez said. "We've been in situations like this. We're going to play a
smart home game and hopefully come out on top."
Brodeur had a 1.65 goals-against average in last year's playoffs, but has
given up six goals on just 44 shots in this series. The reigning Vezina Trophy
winner was fourth in the league during the regular season with a 2.03 GAA.
"They're making good dumps and I can't play the puck at all," Brodeur
"When you lose by one goal, you always hopefully made the big save, but
that didn't happen the first two games, so hopefully I've got to be better the
rest of the series if we're going to go anywhere."
Robert Esche, who had appeared in only one NHL playoff game before this
season, clearly has been the better of the two netminders. He stopped 37 shots
in the series opener and made 24 saves in Game 2 on Saturday.
Not having Stevens has had a profound effect on Brodeur and the rest of the
Devils. The All-Star defenseman, sidelined since early January with
post-concussion syndrome, was hoping to return for this series but the team
remains unsure if or when he will play.
New Jersey went 2-0-1 in the first three matchups of the season against
Philadelphia with Stevens on the ice, but has since lost all five with its
captain out of the lineup.
One area in which Stevens is sorely missed is penalty killing. Among the
league leaders in that category during the regular season, the Devils have
given up a power-play goal in both defeats despite allowing the Flyers just
four opportunities with the man advantage.
Philadelphia has killed off all seven New Jersey power plays in the series.
"We knew if we're going to have a chance, no matter what we did on the
power play, we'd have to do a good job killing penalties," said coach Ken
Hitchcock, whose Flyers have yet to trail in this series. "If we didn't do
that, we'd be on edge in other parts of our game."
The trio of Alexei Zhamnov, Jeremy Roenick and Tony Amonte has been
Hitchcock's best line offensively in this series. In Saturday's victory,
Zhamnov's first playoff goal in eight years gave Philadelphia a 2-1 lead in the
second period. Zhamnov and Roenick then assisted on defenseman Mattias
Timander's goal midway through the third.
Roenick knows quite a challenge still lies ahead for the Flyers.
"We realize we're going against the Stanley Cup champions, a tremendous
team," he said. "If we're not poised and composed, they'd walk all over us."
Game 4 is Wednesday night.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Flyers - 101 points; 3rd seed. Devils - 100 points; 6th
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Flyers - six with 1 goal; Kim Johnsson, 3 assists;
Johnsson, Roenick and Zhamnov, 3 points; Sami Kapanen, 4 PIM. Devils - Jan
Hrdina, 2 goals; Scott Gomez, Jamie Langenbrunner and Erik Rasmussen, 2
assists; six with 2 points; Scott Niedermayer, 4 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Flyers - Power play: 50 percent (2 for 4). Penalty
killing: 100 percent (7 for 7). Devils - Power play: 0 percent (0 for 7).
Penalty killing: 50 percent (2 for 4).
GOALTENDERS: Flyers - Esche (2-0, 2.00 GAA); Sean Burke (no appearances).
Devils - Brodeur (0-2, 3.03 GAA); Scott Clemmensen (no appearances).