Devils can’t get past Flyers in Game 1

The last team to get an NHL playoff berth pulled off yet another

surprise.

Brian Boucher had 23 saves in his first playoff start in

eight years and the Philadelphia Flyers – who clawed their way into

the playoffs with a shootout win on the last day of the regular

season – beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1 in Game 1 of their

first-round Eastern Conference series Wednesday night.

“We’re still the underdogs,” Flyers forward Ian Laperriere

said. “We had expectations on us at the start of the season and

didn’t play the way we wanted to play. Hopefuly, we’ll surprise a

lot of people. We believe in our group and in our goalie and we’ll

see what the future holds for us.”

Chris Pronger and Mike Richards scored second-period goals

for Philadelphia.

Taking the first game in the best-of-7 series has to bode

well for them heading into Friday’s game at the Prudential Center.

At the least, the Flyers have taken away the home-ice advantage

that the Devils earned by winning the Atlantic Division and the

conference’s No. 2 seed.

This win also has to boost the Flyers’ confidence even higher

against a team that they beat five times in six games in the

regular season.

“We feel the pressure is on them,” Philadelphia center Blair

Betts said. “We’re obviously going to put pressure on ourselves. We

know when we are playing our best we can compete with any team in

this league.”

The loss has to be a major concern for the Devils, who have

been knocked out of the playoffs in the opening round the last two

seasons.

“I’m looking at the playoffs right now, and we lost the first

one,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. “We’ve just got to find a

way to win.”

New Jersey gave its unhappy fans some hope when Travis Zajac

scored on a somewhat flubbed slap shot that seemed to bounce in

front of Boucher with 2:43 to play.

Boucher, however, stopped Patrik Elias in close with about 10

seconds to go and the Flyers cleared the puck out of the zone on

the ensuing faceoff.

“We said we wanted Game 1, and we got it,” said Boucher,

whose got the Flyers into the postseason by outdueling Henrik

Lundqvist of the Rangers in the shootout Sunday. “So now we have a

day of rest and regroup and look forward to Game 2.”

The Devils’ performance was so inept that their fans were

booing at the end of the second period and near the end of a

4-minute power play early in the third period, an advantage that

resulted in two shots.

Boucher, who inherited the Flyers’ starting job because of

injuries to Ray Emery and Michael Leighton, wasn’t overly tested.

His best period was the first, when he stopped nine shots. The best

of that bunch was a snapping glove save on a 25-footer by Ilya

Kovalchuk and stops in close on Zach Parise and Zajac.

But Boucher’s play was similar to his rookie season in 2000

when he was in net for the Flyers-Devils conference final series.

New Jersey won in seven games.

Other than that, Boucher’s only other playoff start was in

2002 for Philadelphia.

Pronger provided the go-ahead goal at 9:25 of the second

period, scoring in front on a power play. Richards fired a bad

angle shot at Martin Brodeur. Simon Gagne nudged the rebound in the

crease and Pronger, who was acquired in a major trade with Anaheim

last June, backhanded a shot off the skate of Devils forward Brian

Rolston into the net.

Richards doubled the lead a little more than seven minutes

later with a 35-foot shot that beat Brodeur low to the glove side.

Ian Laperriere set up the goal, taking the puck from Devils

defenseman Martin Skoula near the blue line and finding Richards

alone between the circles with a behind the back pass.

“If I had missed that pass I don’t think you would have seen

me on the ice again,” Laperriere said.

The Flyers iced the game killing off a double minor to

defenseman Oskars Bartulis and another minor to Braydon Coburn. New

Jersey was 0 for 5 on the power play.

“I thought we played decent,” said Brodeur, who faced only 14

shots, including two in the third period. “Defensively, we did a

great job. We didn’t allow much. Offensively, the power play was

the story of the game. We just couldn’t get going. We couldn’t get

any momentum off it. We didn’t do well.”