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Devils' struggles vs. Flyers continue

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils said all the right things about their horrid 1-4-1 regular-season record against the Flyers before the two teams faced off in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

They said the regular season didn't matter; they said the playoffs offered a chance to wipe the slate clean.

Well, what they said and what transpired on the ice Wednesday night at the Prudential Center were two very different things.

The Flyers continued their season-long dominance over the Devils in Game 1 of their first-round series against New Jersey. Philadelphia outhit, outhustled and overpowered the Devils in a 2-1 win at the Prudential Center.

Counting the regular season, the No. 7 seed Flyers have taken six of seven games from the No. 2 seed Devils this season, including four straight dating back to Feb. 8.

Sure, the Devils can come back from a 1-0 deficit in this series -- but it's hard to ignore the numbers.

The Flyers have outscored the Devils 22-14 in seven games. The Devils are just 5-for-37 on the power play against the Flyers, including 0-for-5 in 10 minutes with a man advantage in Game 1.

"Special teams in the playoffs are really important," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. "If you get scored on short-handed, or you don't score on the power play, it could cost you the game."

For a franchise looking to get out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2007, the Devils certainly didn't get off on the right foot.

In addition to their struggles on the power play, they couldn't get sniper Ilya Kovalchuk going. Kovalchuk, who is winless in five career playoff games, mustered just four shots on goal and did nothing to get the power play in gear, even though he spent a team-high 7:38 on the ice when the Devils held a man advantage.

But Kovalchuk wasn't the only Devil who couldn't beat Flyers goalie Brian Boucher. Boucher, Philly's third-string goalie thrust into a starting role after injuries to Ray Emery and Michael Leighton, made 23 saves and allowed the Devils few second-chance opportunities.

"He's a good goalie, let's not kid ourselves," Zach Parise said. "He makes the saves he needs to make and he did that tonight. We've just got to put pucks in the net."


The Flyers went up 1-0 on a power-play goal by Chris Pronger in the second period. Mike Richards' tally with 3:33 to go in the second gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead, though Lemaire contended that there were too many Flyers on the ice when Richards scored.

The Devils cut the deficit to one goal when Travis Zajac's slap shot from just above the right circle trickled through Boucher's pads at 17:17 of the third period. But Boucher stood tall in the final minutes to seal the win for Philly.

No, the Devils' Game 1 showing didn't help anyone forget the disappointment of the 2008 and 2009 playoffs, when they were bounced in the first round. And it didn't do anything to quiet those who believe that the Flyers' regular-season dominance against the Devils will continue in the playoffs, despite what the Devils said after the game.

"I think the regular season's irrelevant right now. We played pretty well tonight," Parise said.

"In the playoffs, everybody starts from zero," defenseman Martin Skoula said. "We just lost the first game."

Sure, the Devils are saying the right things. But with each loss to the Flyers, it's getting more difficult to believe.

Ian Begley is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.