PHILADELPHIA — Bryce Salvador, David Clarkson and Ilya Kovalchuk scored goals to lift New Jersey to a 3-1 Game 5 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night, sending the Devils into the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2003.
Martin Brodeur was strong in goal and has the Devils back in position to win their fourth Stanley Cup. The Devils await the winner of the New York Rangers-Washington Capitals series. The Devils rebounded this season under coach Peter DeBoer after missing the playoffs for the first time since 1996 last season.
The sixth-seeded Devils scored twice in the first period and became the first East team to win four consecutive games in these playoffs.
“It was just sticking with the game plan and doing what it takes to be successful,” DeBoer said. “Marty made some saves when he needed to, and we held on.”
Max Talbot scored for the Flyers, but Philadelphia was eliminated in the conference semifinals for the second consecutive season.
Philadelphia finished the season without suspended All-Star forward Claude Giroux because of his illegal check to the head on New Jersey center Dainius Zubrus in Game 4.
The Flyers again failed in the postseason to hold a quick lead after Talbot scored in the first. The Devils also survived a rugged series of hits unleashed by a frustrated Flyers team that failed to build anything off their first-round victory over Pittsburgh. Anton Volchenkov, Marek Zidlicky and Zubrus all suffered punishing hits that knocked them down on the ice in Game 5.
Bryzgalov had a disheartening end to an erratic first season in Philadelphia.
The Devils have won six of seven and believe they have another title run in them. This is the third time in franchise history New Jersey has defeated Philadelphia. The previous two times (1995 and 2000), the Devils went on to win the Stanley Cup.
CAPITALS: If they want to avoid elimination, Alex Ovechkin and Washington must figure out a way to recover and regroup from a potentially devastating loss to the New York Rangers.
The Rangers head into tonight’s Game 6 with a 3-2 series lead, one victory from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1997, when Wayne Gretzky was on the team.
New York’s Brad Richards tied Game 5 with 6.6 seconds left Monday, and Marc Staal won it 1:35 into overtime. Ovechkin had zero shots on goal for only the second time in 49 NHL playoff games.
The Capitals hope to bounce back one more time. They’re 3-0 in games following overtime losses this postseason.
BLACKHAWKS: Mike Haviland was fired Tuesday as an assistant coach after coach Joel Quenneville determined there was some “dysfunction” on the staff last season.
Chicago was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for a second consecutive season after winning the Stanley Cup in 2010.