NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — After Philadelphia rolled over Pittsburgh in the opening round of the playoffs, there was a perception that the Flyers would be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
Deep. Driven. Determined. You name it.
Getting by New Jersey in the second round seemingly was a given, especially after the No. 6 seed Devils needed seven games — and two overtimes in the last contest — to knock off Florida of all teams.
Well, it's time to revise that perception. Because, with Game 3 on tap Thursday at the Prudential Center, this series is tied, 1-1.
The Devils not only showed they could play with the No. 5 Flyers in splitting the first two games in Philadelphia; they could easily be leading 2-0 in the best-of-7 series. They lost Game 1 in overtime, 4-3, and dominated Game 2, 4-1, on Tuesday despite playing without leading scorer Ilya Kovalchuk.
"I think there is a pressure with being a favorite in a series," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said Wednesday. "We felt that in the Florida series, and I don't think there is any doubt that it is on Philadelphia. That is something that isn't easy to deal with, when you are supposed to win and, not only win, but win convincingly.
"We like the spot we are in and we are just going to keep working."
The Devils clearly outworked the Flyers in posting a 4-1 win in Game 2. They outshot Philadelphia 35-20 and only outstanding goaltending by Ilya Bryzgalov allowed the home team to hold a 1-0 lead after two periods.
But New Jersey blew the game open with four consecutive goals in the third. In doing so, the Devils took home-ice advantage — and confidence — back to New Jersey.
A veteran of three Stanley Cup championship teams, Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said not to make too much of the changing perceptions. That's playoff hockey, after all. And it's best to ignore it.
"You can't get overwhelmed by one win," the 39-year-old Brodeur said after the Devils held a team meeting. "People always look at that. That's (why) the mood swings are important. You have to be leveled off about them. You feel so good about yourself that sometimes you slack off a bit. We can't get caught up. We played well, but we expect the Flyers to come a lot harder tomorrow and do what they do."
Philadelphia has to pick up its skating and work on its power play, which failed to produce in five attempts in Game 2 and is 1-for-11 in the series. Flyers center Danny Briere said the Devils also were the more inspired team playing without Kovalchuk.