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Kovalchuk? Who needs 'em. Team effort drives Devils to Game 2 win

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN's take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.

We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.

Of course there's the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn't get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.


THN’s TAKE: Defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in their second round series presented a difficult enough challenge for New Jersey with star winger and team MVP Ilya Kovalchuk in the lineup. But, down 1-0 in the series, the Devils had to take on their Atlantic Division rivals without their leading scorer and still came away with a 4-1 victory, a tied series and home ice advantage.

The Flyers struck first and had the lead entering the first intermission, but even then the Devils outshot them 13-9 and didn’t look like a team demoralized by the absence of its most potent offensive weapon. And as the game progressed, New Jersey simply grew stronger, outshooting Philly 12-2 in the second period and 35-20 on the night.

The Devils got their offense from a combination of the new (rookie Adam Larsson’s first playoff goal in his first post-season game after being a healthy scratch for the previous eight games came early in the third and tied it) and the old (veterans David Clarkson and Travis Zajac gave New Jersey the lead and a late-game cushion). Just as importantly, the Devils kept the action largely in Philadelphia’s end; the Flyers outblocked New Jersey 23-12, but that was another indication of how the Devils kept the home team on their heels. You couldn’t blame Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who was sharp for most of the game and kept the score close for more than two periods.

Kovalchuk is suffering from a “lower body injury” whose specifics are being guarded like the nuclear launch codes and there’s no telling whether he’ll be back on the ice for Game 3 Thursday in New Jersey. However, if the Devils can keep Philadelphia’s deep group of forwards running around in their own zone and continue to benefit from clutch goal-scoring throughout the lineup, they’ve shown they don’t always need him.

Three Stars:

Andy Greene – Symbolized a gutsy collective effort with a 22:58 of ice time and 29 shifts (both team-bests) and a game-high five blocked shots. Other Devils D-men (including Larsson and Marek Zidlicky) contributed solid minutes, but Greene did the dirty work the playoffs are all about.

David Clarkson – Clarkson’s game-winning goal was his first of the post-season and ended with him driving the net and leaping chest-first into the crossbar. He had three shots and three hits and his grit provided an answer every time the Flyers tried to intimidate New Jersey.

Dainius Zubrus – The veteran center had a pair of assists and was a game-best plus-2 in just 15:14 of work. Most impressive, though, was his unbeaten mark in faceoffs (5 for 5). None of his teammates who took more than three draws were anywhere near that mark, meaning Zubrus was the reason the Devils narrowly beat out the Flyers in faceoff winning percentage (51 to 49).

Who do you think was the first star?

The Black Hole: James van Riemsdyk was showing his NHL playoff experience in Game 2, registering a game-worst minus-3 (tied with teammate Daniel Briere) and no shots on net in 16:48 of ice time. The 22-year-old had just come off a plus-3 performance in Game 1, but the inconsistency shouldn’t be a huge surprise considering it was just the fourth post-season game for him in 2012. That said, it also shouldn’t be a surprise if Flyers coach Peter Laviolette takes van Riemsdyk’s average time on ice closer to the first two games (where he registered times of 6:41 and 7:31) than Game 1 (when he had 17:31).

- Adam Proteau


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