Parise, Kovalchuk and the Devils are even with the Flyers at a game apiece.
It’s all tied up heading to Philadelphia.
Friday’s dramatic Game 2 featured everything the Stanley Cup Playoffs are supposed to be: Clutch goals, better saves, up-and-down action, standing ovations and Devils fan celebrations. Jersey’s Team got the victory they needed, topping the Flyers, 5-3, in front of an electric sellout crowd at Prudential Center.
Dainius Zubrus broke a 3-3 tie with 4:04 left in regulation, and Ilya Kovalchuk added an empty-netter with 32.9 seconds left to cap a three-point night – along with his first taste of postseason victory. The Devils tied their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal at a game apiece.
“There’s a reason why we were the second team in the conference, because I think we can play well,” Zubrus said. “We just have to do that: worry about our game.”
Zubrus powered the puck around the net on his backhand for the winning goal, coming around the left post and lifting the puck over Brian Boucher. Zach Parise slapped at it on the doorstep at the same time.
“I tried to shoot it, but I think it was Zach’s whack at it, and maybe my stick was in front – I don’t know,” Zubrus said. “I tried to shoot it, but I think Zach whacked it better than I did. I actually thought he scored it. It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter. We’re tied, 1-1, right now going into their building, and that’s a lot better than being down 2-0, that’s for sure.”
Parise thought he had it, but was happier to have the lead.
"I thought I did. I celebrated like I did," Parise said. "At that stage of the game, you don’t care. It’s a win and it’s a great game."
Martin Brodeur was stellar with 26 saves, including a potential series-saver on Ian Laperriere’s one-timer from the slot with under nine minutes to go in regulation. The Devils cleared a big hurdle by posting their second win in eight meetings with the Flyers this season. Next, they set their sights on their first win of the season at Wachovia Center.
Game 3 is Sunday in Philadelphia.
"We've played well so far in this series," Brodeur said. "We got a lot of chances. We have to continue to make Brian Boucher play well, that's the bottom line. If he plays well, that means we have a lot of chances, and if we have a lot of chances, the puck will go in. We have to keep putting a lot of pucks on him."
The save on Laperriere came with the game tied, 3-3, at 11:07, and might have helped the Devils avoid a 2-0 series deficit. Daniel Carcillo forced White into an offensive zone turnover and raced into Devils territory. Carcillo's scoring chance stayed out, but Mike Richards passed out of the right corner for Laperriere's one-timer in front.
"I got caught up on Carcillo first when he went to the net, and I lost the puck there for a second," Brodeur said. "I saw that Lappy was wide open there in the slot, so I just stayed down, really, and I came across with my stick down and got a piece of it."
A topsy-turvy contest featured three lead changes: Parise’s shorthanded goal put the Devils ahead early in the first before the Flyers rallied for the next two. Colin White’s first postseason goal in 10 years tied it, and Andy Greene put the Devils ahead, 3-2, on the power play. Chris Pronger’s second power-play goal in the series tied it, 3-3, late in the second period, before Zubrus put New Jersey ahead for good at 15:56 of the third.
Kovalchuk put the finishing touch on a Devils masterpiece with his first goal of the playoffs.
"I don't care about goals," Kovalchuk said. "That was a great win, and we're tied, 1-1, now going into their building. It's not going to be easy, but we're ready for it."
Afterward, he savored a memorable first win in his sixth career playoff appearance.
"It's nice," he said. "It's great. That's why we play hockey: the playoffs and playoff wins. It gives you confidence with an exciting experience. I can't wait to play another game."
The penalty kill had to deliver on a night when the Flyers were handed seven power plays, and the PK allowed only two goals. Brodeur was at his best with the Devils shorthanded, stoning Jeff Carter’s doorstep one-timer and Simon Gagne’s backhander with Greene in the box early in the second.
Brian Boucher made 28 saves in the loss. New Jersey outshot the Flyers, 33-29.
Parise and the Devils exploited Philadelphia’s first power play to take the lead. Matt Carle flubbed Pronger’s pass at the point, and Patrik Elias, who had three assists, pounced on the loose puck. He carried to center and sent Parise in alone on Boucher. With Pronger bearing down, Parise cut across the front of the net before burying a backhander for this first of the playoffs at 2:45.
"It was great to get the fans into it, to give them something to cheer about early," Parise said. "It was good for us to get that first goal."
Parise continued: "When you put some goals on the board, you give them something to cheer about. And when you make some good plays, it just makes it an all-around exciting game."
The Flyers answered with the next two to take the lead. Claude Giroux carried behind the net to set up Arron Asham’s tap-in at 9:33. David Clarkson was in the box for tripping Asham when Giroux’s power-play goal put Philadelphia ahead, 2-1. Giroux redirected Carle’s shot from the left circle with 4:30 left in the first.
The Devils retook the lead in a thrilling second period, pressuring the Flyers in their own zone and getting vintage Brodeur between the pipes.
White tied the contest, 2-2, with his second career playoff goal – and first since 1999-00. He lofted a shot from the left circle that snuck under Boucher, off the right post and in at 3:44.
Greene broke the stalemate with New Jersey’s first power-play goal of the series. The blueliner crept into the slot to bat home an Elias pass at 13:25.
Greene was off for interference when Pronger tipped a Kimmo Timonen shot to tie the game, 3-3, on a 4-on-3 power play with 1:12 left in the second.
Parise’s 13th career goal in the playoffs was New Jersey’s first shorthanded postseason tally since John Madden in 2005-06. Madden recorded a hat trick – including two shorties – in Game 2 of a first-round sweep vs. the Rangers. … Matt Corrente made his NHL postseason debut skating on the right side of a line with Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond and Dean McAmmond. The Devils' first-round pick in 2006, Corrente recorded one shot in 5:14 of ice time.