NEWARK, N.J. -- Maybe Brian Boucher is the man to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to the Promised Land.
Boucher, the veteran goalie in his second tour of duty in the City of Brotherly Love, proved to be the difference yet again on Wednesday when he turned aside 23 shots to help lead the Flyers to a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series before 17,625 at Prudential Center.
Boucher, who made nine saves in the first, six in the second and eight in the third, was calm, cool and collected throughout in recording his first playoff win since May 20, 2000, also in New Jersey. Ironically, that was also the last time the Flyers played an entire game without having a penalty called on a forward. Philadelphia was whistled for five penalties -- all to defensemen -- including three in the third period.
"I'll have to have a little chit-chat with the defense and sharpen them up," said Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger when told the back end accounted for all of the Flyers' penalties.
Boucher's performance, meanwhile, was reminiscent of his playoff-clinching, 2-1 shootout decision over the New York Rangers in the regular-season finale on Sunday.
"Brian's been sharp down the stretch, if you followed our team at all," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "I think we played good hockey in front of him but, as always, it comes down to the goalie making saves because we're going to give up shots. That's the nature of the beast and it's nice to have a goalie with confidence. He's giving us an opportunity to win hockey games."
The Devils ended Boucher's shutout bid and had pared the margin to a goal with just 2:43 remaining when Travis Zajac ripped home a shot from the right point with Zach Parise on the doorstep. The puck actually deflected off Ian Laperriere in front and into the cage.
New Jersey then pulled Martin Brodeur (12 saves) for the extra attacker with just over a minute remaining with the hope of notching the equalizer. The best chance came with 9.6 seconds left when Patrik Elias took a backhander just outside the left post that Boucher covered.
The Devils not only limited the Flyers to 14 shots for the game, but just two in the third period.
"We played pretty good," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. "We had some chances but the puck didn't go in. They are a good team and they play well defensively. We were looking for a goal early but it didn't come and we couldn't do anything on special teams."
With the Flyers holding a 1-0 lead, Laperriere blocked a clearing attempt by Devils defenseman Martin Skoula in the neutral zone, carried into the attacking zone and made a highlight-reel, spin-o-rama feed off his backhand from above the right circle to a charging Mike Richards on the opposite wing. Richards collected the puck and unleashed a slap shot from just above the left circle that deflected off Brodeur's skate and into the top far corner of the cage to give the Flyers a 2-0 advantage with 3:33 left in the second.
"If I missed that pass, I don't think you would have seen me on the ice again," Laperriere quipped. "It's one of those times that you take a chance and it worked good for me and my team. I saw Ritchie come off the bench and I made that pass and it worked, but if it didn't work, you wouldn't have seen No. 14 out there for a little while."
Said Richards: "The pass surprised me a little bit. I expected the pass, but not a behind-the-backer. But, once in a while, he comes up with a great play."
The Flyers opened the scoring 9:25 into the second when Pronger put a shot past Brodeur with his team working the power play. With Devils forward Dainius Zubrus off for hooking, Richards took a shot from the bottom of the right circle that deflected off Simon Gagne at the right side of the net before Pronger backhanded it off the skate of Brian Rolston and in.
Ilya Kovalchuk barely missed knotting the score less than two minutes after Pronger's tally when he skated the length of the ice, stick-handled by Laperriere and defenseman Matt Carle and sent a slap shot wide to the long side of Boucher.
Laviolette felt the play of his team in the second period was crucial to establishing momentum the remainder of the contest.
"The way we played in the second was big," Laviolette said "And our goalie gave us an opportunity to win that game. We weren't at our best early on but were a lot more competitive in the second and had some big penalty kills in the third. That's not the way you'd want to start a third period -- killing off a four-minute penalty."
That moment came 2:12 into the third when Flyers defenseman Oskars Bartulis was whistled for a double-minor for high sticking David Clarkson. The Devils only generated two shots on the four-minute man advantage as the Flyers' penalty-killers did a superb job clearing the crease in front of Boucher. Laperriere and Blair Betts were big during the disadvantage. So was Boucher, who made a save on Andy Greene from low in the right circle before stuffing a rebound attempt by Elias at the left post.
The Devils were then given their third power play of the period and fifth of the game at 8:49 when Braydon Coburn was penalized for delay of game for knocking the goal off its moorings with Boucher out of position. The Flyers held the Devils shot-less on that advantage.
"We've got to shoot the puck more (on the power play)," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We missed some opportunities to take shots and were trying to make the perfect play. They do a good job of pressuring and keeping you to the outside and we have to put pucks at the net and work from there."
Boucher was involved early as Elias released a right-circle snap shot 1:43 into the first that the veteran goalie knocked away with his left glove. Kovalchuk was then robbed by Boucher at the 7:52 mark when his uncontested wrist shot from between the hash marks was snared with the glove.
Shift of the game: With the Flyers holding a 1-0 lead, Ian Laperriere blocked a clearing attempt by Devils defenseman Martin Skoula in the neutral zone, carried into the New Jersey end and made a highlight-reel, spin-o-rama feed off his backhand from above the right circle to a charging Mike Richards on the opposite wing. Richards, who alertly jumped off the bench, collected the puck and unleashed a slap shot from just above the left circle that deflected off Martin Brodeur's left skate and into the top far corner of the cage to give the Flyers a 2-0 advantage with 3:33 left in the second period.