NEWARK, N.J. -- Eleven days after becoming the last team to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers are the first one to advance to the second round -- and the New Jersey Devils are the first club heading for home.
The Flyers completed a five-game blitz of the Devils with a 3-0 victory at the Prudential Center on Thursday night. Claude Giroux scored twice and set up the Flyers' other goal, and goalie Brian Boucher made 28 saves for his second career playoff shutout to send the Devils home after a first-round loss for the third straight season.
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The second-seeded Devils and the sellout crowd at the Prudential Center were holding out hope that the team would repeat the remarkable comeback it made during the 2000 Eastern Conference Final, when New Jersey rallied from a 3-1 series deficit en route to winning the Stanley Cup. The seventh-seeded Flyers, however, would have none of it as they beat the Devils for the ninth time in 11 regular-season and playoff meetings in 2009-10.
"It's nice to end this tonight," said Boucher, the losing goaltender in the Devils' comeback a decade ago. "When you're up 3-1, they're looking for any sign of life that they can get. We did a great job."
Boucher admitted that he hadn't forgotten the sting of that loss.
"People have asked me if this takes away what happened 10 years ago. Not really," he said. "That stings. We were on our way to the Stanley Cup Final and we lost. This feels nice to move onto the second round. It's a whole new situation."
With Carter, their leading regular-season goal-scorer, and Gagne both sidelined and headed for foot surgery, coach Peter Laviolette was delighted with the way Giroux stepped up.
"I remember back two months ago, we were talking and he wanted more responsibility," he said, "and we revisited that conversation (on Thursday morning) with some veterans out of the lineup now. I thought he responded with a tremendous game in a big situation. He was a very good player for us."
Giroux said the Flyers were determined not to let the series get to a sixth game, even though it would have been played back in Philadelphia.
"This is a very exciting time of year ,and I think the whole team showed up," he said of Thursday's performance. "We wanted to finish it off and the guys really stepped up and played hard. Losing (Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter) hurt and we really wanted to play well without them. Guys needed to step up. Boosh made the saves when we needed them. We didn't want to give them a chance to come back -- and we didn't."
As was the case all series, the Flyers were at their best on special teams. Philadelphia scored its seventh and eighth power-play goals while going 2-for-6 with the extra man -- and killed off all eight New Jersey power plays. The Devils were 4-for-32 on the power play in the series.
"It became a special-teams type of series," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "Their power play worked really well and ours didn't. Our PK didn't work as well, and theirs worked well. Just look at the special teams and you'll see why we're not playing any more."
The Flyers gave New Jersey a power play 43 seconds into the game when Daniel Carcillo was called for tripping, but Devils' captain Jamie Langenbrunner was also called for a trip at 1:29 to even the sides -- and the Flyers then took advantage of the brief power play after Carcillo emerged from the box to open the scoring for the first time in four games.
Mike Richards skated the puck into the zone along the left wing boards and dished to Giroux in the circle. Giroux kept his balance while doing a 360 before connecting with Danny Briere barreling down the slot for a tip past Brodeur at 3:16.
The rest of the period belonged to Boucher, as the Devils failed to score despite two power plays and nine shots. His best three saves were off Paul Martin on a quality backhand at 10:28, a point-blank denial of David Clarkson at 15:11 and a stop on Patrik Elias off a left-circle slap shot at 16:20. He also stuffed Zach Parise with a poke check on a 1-on-1 break-in.
Boucher also was called upon to make several huge stops early in the second with the Devils on the power play. He also received a little assistance from Briere, who stopped an attempt by Martin from crossing the goal line at 4:53. Boucher also robbed Elias and Brian Rolston less than a minute later.
Giroux gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead on his first of the game 11:48 into the second. Richards took a shot from the right circle that was blocked by Bryce Salvador. The puck skidded to Giroux barreling down the slot and the second-year forward roofed a slap shot just under the crossbar to Brodeur's stick side. It was Philadelphia's second shot of the period.
The Flyers extended the lead to 3-0 at 13:47 when Giroux fired home his fourth of the playoffs. With New Jersey's Dean McAmmond serving a double minor for high-sticking, Brodeur stopped Briere's blast from the right point but couldn't control the rebound. Scott Hartnell bounced a pass off a skate to Giroux, who was alone in the slot and blasted a slot over Brodeur's blocker from the left hash mark.
"We played well in the first and started of hard and matched their intensity," Richards said. "I thought once we calmed down a bit, we played well."
Brodeur lost his third straight game and will be forced to wait another year in his bid for his 100th career playoff win. He fell to 99-81 with Thursday's setback.
"I just don't believe it," Brodeur said of the Devils' third consecutive first-round loss. "It's tough to digest. We had a hell of a team here. For whatever reason, we never got to the level we needed to play at in the playoffs. There were more expectations from our club than to fold in five games.
"This is three years in a row we accomplished nothing."
The Flyers lost shot blocker extraordinaire Ian Laperriere 3:56 into the third after he took a puck in the face when he went down to block a shot from the point by Martin with his team killing the sixth Devils' power-play of the game.
Shift of the Night: With Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner in the box for tripping, the Flyers took advantage to open the scoring for the first time in four games. Mike Richards skated the puck into the Devils' zone along the left wing boards and dished to Claude Giroux in the circle. Giroux kept his balance while doing a 360 before connecting with Danny Briere racing down the opposite wing for a deft tip past Martin Brodeur's left skate and the right post. The goal came at 3:16 of the first period, with just 13 seconds remaining on the Devils penalty, and took the Prudential Center crowd out of the game.