Philadelphia wins in Devils' building

Posted: Friday, May 19, 2000

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- With rookie goaltender Brian Boucher playing like Dominik Hasek, the Philadelphia Flyers didn't need to worry about either the New Jersey Devils' recent dominance or the so-called Meadowlands jinx.

Boucher made 27 saves, Keith Primeau set up two goals and Rick Tocchet got his third in two games as the Flyers beat the Devils 4-2 Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

Mark Recchi, Keith Jones and Simon Gagne also scored as the Flyers won their second straight game in the best-of-seven series after all but being written off after losing the opener in Philadelphia.

''We have enough veterans to knock each other down,'' Tocchet said. ''We know it's 2-1, and I hate to say it, but big deal. It's a good win but we have to stay on an even keel.''

The loss squarely puts the pressure on the Devils for the first time in the playoffs heading into Game 4 on Saturday night.

The Flyers also have some concerns about John LeClair, who was cut in the face by goaltender Martin Brodeur's stick in the third period and needed 36 stitches on the right side of his nose and three around his eyelid.

LeClair plans to play Saturday.

''It's a desperate hockey game, not doubt about it,'' Devils center Jason Arnott said. ''It's a do-or-die game. We have to go into it thinking we have to win the game.''

What made this win so important for the Flyers was it was in New Jersey's backyard, a place that had been a graveyard for them. Philadelphia had a 4-22-2 record in the Continental Airlines Arena over the last five years and it was 0-7-1 in its last eight games here.

''More than anything we just felt we had to show people that we could play in this building,'' Primeau said. ''I just sensed that our guys the last couple of days were focused for the challenge and we came up with a huge effort.'

The jinx never bothered the Flyers in this game because they never trailed.

The Devils might have had the advantage in shots, 29-21, and chances, but the only ones that found the net were Claude Lemieux and Scott Niedermayer, with the last one coming with 4:01 to play to make it 3-2.

Gagne ended the suspense beating Brodeur with a backhander with 1:49 to go.

''They worked harder and the chances went their way,'' Devils center Bobby Holik said. ''We just weren't ready to play on the level we needed to be at in the playoffs.''

The Flyers were, particularly Primeau and Tocchet for the second straight game.

The linemates first combined to set up Jones' goal, which broke a 1-1 tie at 14:14 of the first period.

Tocchet had the puck in center ice and he delayed briefly at the Devils blue line before sending a pass to Primeau coming down the middle of the ice. He took the pass off the skate of Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko and had his backhander stopped by Brodeur. However, Jones crashed the net and got just enough of the rebound to score his third goal of the playoffs.

Boucher preserved the lead with what was his second Hasek-like save of the series.

With the Flyers on a power play early in the second period, Patrik Elias, who led the Devils this season with 35 goals, got a shorthanded breakaway. He skated across the front of the net, got Boucher out of position and shot a forehand along the ice.

However, the goaltender rolled on his back and threw out his glove hand to stop the shot, a save Hasek has made famous with the Buffalo Sabres.

''That was his only chance to save that puck,'' Elias said. ''It was good sense on his part.''

''I have seen a lot of hockey games in the NHL, that was top five I have ever seen,'' Tocchet, a 16-year veteran said of the save. ''You have to put everything, the pressure of the big game. Put that all together and it's one of the top five have ever seen.''

''If it gave our guys a lift at the time, great,'' Boucher said. ''I don't think at the time what impact it will have on a game or a series. I just try to do my job.''

Tocchet made it 3-1 at 7:15 of the second period, beating Brodeur from the top of the right circle on a one-on-one chance. Primeau had set up the break with a nice cross-ice pass from the Flyers blue line with the Devils about to be called for a delayed offsides.

''It was the worst game I've played in the playoffs,'' Brodeur said. ''I let the guys down. I just didn't come through.''

The Devils had plenty of chances the rest of the way but many of them missed the net. There were a couple of good chances in the third period with Boucher stopping a bullet by Petr Sykora and an in-close chance by Niedermayer.

Recchi gave the Flyers 1-0 lead 2:57 after the opening faceoff, converting a 2-on-1 with LeClair. The play was set up when Devils defenseman Vladimir Malakhov pinched in the Flyers zone and missed the puck.

Malakhov atoned for the mistake at 4:24, making a nice pass to send Lemieux in on a break. His shot was deflected by a diving Craig Berube but it still found the top of the net.



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