- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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No one on the New Jersey Devils -- from Lemaire on down -- knows who netted the game-winning goal in the Devils' series-tying win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night at the Prudential Center.
But in the end, it didn't really matter.
All that counts is that it went past Flyers goalie Brian Boucher and into the back of the net to lift the Devils to the win and a 1-1 tie with Philly in their best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
"We're tied 1-1 right now going into their building," Zubrus said. "It's a lot better than being down 2-0."
With the game tied 3-3 and just over four minutes left in regulation, Zubrus drove to the net and blasted a shot that was stopped by Boucher. Both Zubrus and Parise struck the rebound at the same time, and the puck beat Boucher to lift the Devils to their first win over Philadelphia since Feb. 8. Including the regular season, the Devils had lost five in a row -- and six of seven overall -- to the seventh-seeded Flyers.
To successfully fight the stigma that they couldn't beat Philly, the Devils had to fight off nine penalties. That included three unnecessary trips to the box by sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, who finished with two assists and an empty-net goal in his first playoff win.
Kovalchuk was baited into a costly roughing penalty by Philadelphia fourth-line defenseman Darroll Powe late in the second period. Andy Greene was whistled for interference just over a minute later, giving the Flyers a 4-on-3 edge. Philadelphia defenseman Chris Pronger tied the score at 3-3 with a deflection of Kimmo Timonen's shot with 1:12 to go in the period.
"To me, [Kovalchuk] lacks experience in the playoffs," an irritated Lemaire said. "You can't get tangled with a guy who plays two minutes and get out for two, not when you're a top player. You have to stay away from that."
The Devils held Philadelphia scoreless on seven of nine power-play opportunities. Their maligned power-play unit also broke through in the second period for its first tally in eight chances when Greene's wrister from about 15 feet out beat Brian Boucher to his left, giving New Jersey a 3-2 lead.
After Pronger's goal tied it, the Flyers had a few good chances to take the lead in the third. But Martin Brodeur (26 saves) made a few big stops, including knocking down Ian Laperriere's shot in the slot at 11:07.
Zubrus then broke through with the game-winner with 4:04 to go in the third period, which saved the second-seeded Devils from the immeasurable pressure of being down 0-2 in the first round. Pressure that would have been even greater, given the fact that the Devils are coming off two straight first-round playoff exits.
"It's much better to be 1-1 than 2-0," Parise said.
About a half-hour after the game, Parise still couldn't say for sure who scored the game-winning goal.
He thought he might have scored, but he certainly didn't mind that Zubrus got credit for it.
"The Devils scored it; that's what's most important," Parise said.
Ian Begley is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
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