Work in Sports
PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- Road, sweet road.
The New Jersey Devils avoided elimination in the Eastern Conference finals with a 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers as linemates Petr Sykora and Patrik Elias each had a goal and an assist.
Jason Arnott and Bobby Holik scored in the first period to put New Jersey ahead for good and the Devils ended their first three-game losing streak in three months. They will host Game Six on Wednesday.
New Jersey and Philadelphia have played 11 postseason games against each other and the road team has won nine of them. Both of the Devils' wins in this series have come at the First Union Center, where the Flyers are an unimpressive 5-4 in the playoffs.
"I don't understand," Philadelphia coach Craig Ramsay said. "Normally, we are a pretty good home team and I know that they are. But there are two evenly matched teams and someone just has a little edge one night. It doesn't matter where you play, that has always been our thinking. We don't care where we play."
After a pair of sub-par efforts at home, Martin Brodeur had one shaky episode in this game but made 20 saves as New Jersey improved to 4-9 when facing elimination. The Devils are trying to become the 16th team in playoff history to win a seven-game series after trailing three games to one.
"I made the saves I was required to make in this hockey game," Brodeur said. "They didn't get many shots, we played really well and the guys played well in front of me. We didn't make too many mistakes. That was the big difference."
Former Devil Valeri Zelepukin's power-play goal -- the first against New Jersey in nearly 11 games -- accounted for the offense for Philadelphia, which fell to 33-24 when able to eliminate an opponent.
"We've always bounced back after bad losses. That's what's good about this team, we'll bounce back next game," Flyers right wing Rick Tocchet said. "We're up three games to two, we play well on the road. We had a stinker today, but we'll be all right."
The Devils scored first for the first time since Game One. Flyers center Kent Manderville was penalized for interference at 8:27 of the opening period and New Jersey struck with two seconds left on the ensuing power play.
Sykora got the secondary assist as rookie defenseman Brian Rafalski passed to Arnott, whose one-time slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle got a piece of defenseman Dan McGillis' skate and beat goaltender Brian Boucher inside the left goalpost.
Holik doubled the lead just under five minutes later. After Vladimir Malakhov intercepted a pass in the neutral zone, Holik snapped a wrist shot from the top of the slot. Boucher stopped it, but Jay Pandolfo's rebound attempt trickled toward the net and Holik flicked in a loose puck from the doorstep.
"I wouldn't say we got to (Boucher), we just did a better job going to the net and picking up the rebounds," said Holik, who has three goals in the series after ending a 28-game playoff scoring drought in Game One. "I definitely wouldn't say that we got to him or that we are in his kitchen, that's not the case at all. We just did a better job going to the net and we shot the puck more than we have in the past couple of games."
The Devils had 14-6 edge in shots in the first period.
"We came out flat. We didn't compete in the first period, we were completely outplayed and it cost us," said Flyers left wing John LeClair. "It's one of those things, we weren't as prepared. I guess we were thinking it was going to happen like it did in Jersey without going out and doing it."
New Jersey struck quickly in the second period. After sliding to block a shot by Rick Tocchet, defenseman Scott Stevens punched out the puck with his glove to trigger the Devils' counterattack. Elias broke down the slot and pulled wide around a defender before throwing a cross-crease pass that set up Sykora for the easy redirection.
"We can't try to do too much and we can't try to win the game by ourselves. We've just got to do what you do best," said Stevens, who had two of New Jersey's 14 blocked shots. "The shot blocking is part of my game. You don't know when those things are going to happen. There were a few times where the opportunity was there to block some shots, whatever it takes to win."
The Flyers went nine minutes without a shot before Brodeur stuffed rookie Andy Delmore from point-blank range, got a piece of the rebound and got lucky when Delmore sent a third attempt over the net.
New Jersey's streak reached 32 successful penalty kills before Zelepukin scored with 4:15 left in the second period. With Malakhov serving a tripping penalty, Brodeur could not handle Mark Recchi's dump-in behind the net. Caught out of position, Brodeur dove back into the crease, but Zelepukin tucked the puck inside the left post for his first playoff goal since Game One of last year's conference quarterfinals.
Unlike Game Two, when the Flyers got a goal late in the second period to spark an unlikely comeback, the Devils were able to take a two-goal cushion into intermission.
And they stretched it to 4-1 just 54 seconds into the third. A turnover in the neutral zone sent Elias down the slot and he surprised Boucher with a backhander between the rookie goalie's pads for his fifth playoff goal.
"We knew we had to pick up our play a little bit if we want to give us a chance to win," Elias said of his line, which is centered by Arnott. "We skated good tonight, moved the puck well, we shot the puck and it went in. We got to come out for Game Six and play the same way."
Daymond Langkow returned for Philadelphia after missing two games with a concussion. Former Flyers captain Eric Lindros, battling back from two concussions in less than two months, received medical clearance to resume full practices with the team, although his status for the rest of the series is not known.
New Jersey lost center Sergei Nemchinov, who was rammed into the edge of the Plexiglas at the penalty box by Philadelphia's John LeClair in the second period. Nemchinov needed 40 stitches to close cuts on the left side of his face.