Philadelphia nixes Devils

Posted: Sunday, April 18, 2004

PHILADELPHIA 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 series Saturday.

''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 final seconds.

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.

Red Wings 2, Predators 0

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Ray Whitney and Steve Yzerman scored goals 30 seconds apart in the opening two minutes, and Detroit won its first-round series against Nashville with a Game 6 victory.

Robert Lang had two assists, and Curtis Joseph stopped 15 shots to earn his 16th career postseason shutout and first with Detroit.

The Red Wings improved to 8-0 in potential clinching games, dating to the 1998 Stanley Cup finals. They finished off the Western Conference first-round series in style by leading for 115:15 of the final 120 minutes to end Nashville's first foray into the playoffs.

Avalanche 5, Stars 1

DENVER Peter Forsberg had a goal and two assists, and David Aebischer stopped 21 shots to help Colorado beat Dallas and close out the first-round series in five games.

Colorado had lost five straight potential clinching games, including three consecutive in a first-round loss to Minnesota last year.

Milan Hejduk scored for the third straight game and rookie Marek Svatos had three assists for Colorado, whose second-round opponent is yet to be determined. Darby Hendrickson, Steve Konowalchuk and Joe Sakic also had goals.

The Stars got an early goal from Chris Therien, but couldn't keep it going and lost in the first round for the first time since 1997. Dallas managed just 22 shots against Aebischer and most were from the perimeter.

Canucks 5, Flames 4, 3OT

CALGARY, Alberta Vancouver's Brendan Morrison scored 2:28 into the third overtime to force a seventh game.

Calgary overcame a 4-0 deficit to force overtime, with Chris Clark tying it with 7:04 left in regulation.

But Morrison sent the series back to Vancouver for Game 7 on Monday night, beating goalie Miikka Kiprusoff to end the longest game of the season and the longest in Vancouver history.

Geoff Sanderson, Jarkko Ruutu, Daniel Sedin and Brad May also scored for the Canucks. Martin Gelinas, Ville Nieminen and Oleg Saprykin added goals for the Flames.

Canadiens 5, Bruins 2

MONTREAL Darren Langdon scored for the first time in over two years and Saku Koivu netted the go-ahead goal in the second period, leading Montreal over Boston.

That tied the first-round playoff series 3-3, forcing a deciding Game 7 on Monday in Boston.

Jose Theodore made 22 saves, and Yanic Perreault, Alex Kovalev, and Jan Bulis also scored for Montreal, which won its second in a row after falling behind 3-1 in the series. The Canadiens have never won a seven-game series in which they trailed 3-1.

Sergei Samsonov scored twice for Boston, including a goal off a partial breakaway 4:36 into the third which drew the Bruins within 3-2.



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