PHILADELPHIA – Jeff Carter and Danny Briere ended their playoff scoring droughts in a big way. One more win and the Philadelphia Flyers can erase the New Jersey Devils from the playoffs ? and put a jarring piece of post-season history behind them.
Carter scored two goals and Briere had one to snap scoring funks and lead Philadelphia to a 4-1 victory over New Jersey on Tuesday night and a commanding 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series.
“Everybody wants to chip in, everybody wants to do their part,” Briere said. “It was frustrating in a sense that when you lose and you don’t participate, you feel more responsible. It feels good, definitely, to help out the team.”
The Flyers have won 17 of 19 playoff series when they hold a 3-1 lead. One of those blown leads came in the 2000 Eastern Conference finals in goalie Brian Boucher’s rookie season. Ten years later and in his third stint with the organization, Boucher has them on the brink of advancing to the conference semifinal.
“I put all that behind me,” Boucher said. “I’m not worried about what went wrong.”
Boucher and the Flyers can clinch the series in Game 5 on Thursday in New Jersey. The reeling Devils haven’t won three straight game since they won five straight from Dec. 12 to 21.
“We lost discipline in the second half of the third period,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. “Before that, I thought we were fine most of the game. We’ve got to score more goals.”
New Jersey has scored only nine goals this series. Martin Brodeur stopped 24 shots and made one of the great saves of his post-season career. He just didn’t have enough help to beat a Flyers team that had the arena rocking all night long.
“Bottom line is, we’ve got to find a way to score some goals and to win the hockey game, even if it’s 1-0,” Devils forward Patrik Elias said.
Unlikely post-season star Daniel Carcillo scored his second goal in two games for the Flyers. Boucher made 30 saves. His lone mistake came in the first period when Ilya Kovachuk scored for a 1-0 lead. Boucher was flawless from there.
“I signed back here with good vibes,” Boucher said. “This environment that I’m in right now is what I pictured. It’s what I remembered of playing here.”
Carter and Briere were held without a point in the first three games after combining for 114 this season. Carter led the Flyers in goals and Briere was third.
Without their production, the Flyers relied on clutch on goals from Chris Pronger and Carcillo to win Games 1 and 3. They will need goals from everyone to win games ? but they will need their top guys to stay hot to win series.
Carter went first, firing a wrister on the power play past a stunned Brodeur on the glove side to tie the game at 1 in the second period. Briere set him up with the assist, then gave the Flyers the lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Briere took a perfect pass from Braydon Coburn and scored from right above the circle for a 2-1 lead. He did it on a 4-on-4 and scored his most meaningful goal since he had one in the dramatic shootout season finale against the Rangers to put them in the playoffs.
Carter hadn’t seemed himself after missing two weeks late in the season with a broken foot. He refused to use the injury as an excuse for his slump.
“It’s not easy coming back at any time of the year from an injury, especially the playoffs when the level is so high,” Carter said. “I felt like our line as a whole has been getting better every night, and tonight just kind of kept rolling and we were lucky to get a couple of bounces.”
Simon Gagne is still without a goal ? but not from lack of effort.
Brodeur was out of position and extended head-to-toe on his left side along the crease. Gagne fired from perfect position in the slot, but his shot was snared by Brodeur’s outstretched glove for the highlight-reel save of the series.
Even the Philly fans had to appreciate that one.
Gagne left the game in the third period with a lower-body injury and did not return. He appeared to take a slapshot in the foot-ankle area in the second period. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Gagne would be examined again Wednesday.
That was about the only downer for the Flyers.
The Flyers put the victory away against the NHL’s career wins leader in the third period. Carcillo, the brawler who scored the overtime winner in Game 3, stripped Colin White behind the net, whirled and scored to make it 3-1.
Carcillo had the crowd going wild and has become an instant playoff hero in Philadelphia. He hasn’t totally strayed from his fighting roots ? he was hit with a 10-minute misconduct late in the game.
Carter knocked in a rebound with a 5-on-3 advantage midway through the third for a 4-1 lead. Brodeur lost his helmet and spit his gum onto the ice as the derisive chants of “Mar-ty! Mar-ty! Mar-ty!” only grew louder.
NOTES: The Flyers will show Game 5 live Thursday night at the Wachovia Center. Parking and admission are free. … The Flyers needed this win. While they are 17-2 when holding a 3-1 series lead, they are only 13-6 when tied 2-2.