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Markov's long shot helps oust Devils

4/17/2004

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Robert Esche stood in the crease, raised his
arms and jumped while teammates mobbed him. Martin Brodeur put his
head down and slowly skated off the ice.

Esche again outplayed Brodeur, and Danny Markov scored on a long
shot with 5:23 left, helping the Philadelphia Flyers eliminate the
defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils with a 3-1 victory
in Game 5 of their first-round series Saturday.

"It was exciting," said Esche, who started his first playoff
series. "I could feel the ice shake. I didn't think the crowd
could get that loud. I didn't think anything could get that loud."

Markov's shot from just inside the blue line sailed by
defenseman Colin White, past Brodeur, hit the left post and went
in, a fitting way for the Flyers to end years of frustration
against the Devils, who won three championships the previous nine
years.

"I couldn't see the puck, so I was looking high," said
Brodeur, who hardly resembled a reigning Vezina Trophy winner in
the series. "Next thing I knew it was at the bottom of the circle
and I had a foot to react."

Alexei Zhamnov also scored for Philadelphia, which advances to
the second round for the second straight year. Sami Kapanen added
an empty-net goal in the final seconds.

Scott Niedermayer scored the only goal for New Jersey.

"It's a little shocking," Niedermayer said. "We set our goals
a lot higher. We wanted to be playing longer than this."

New Jersey had been Philadelphia's nemesis for years, beating
the Flyers in the conference finals in 1995, and 2000 when the
Devils rallied from a 3-1 series deficit. Earlier this season,
Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said his team had a psychological
disadvantage against the Devils.

But after starting the season series 0-2-1, Philadelphia won the
final three regular-season games against the Devils, and four of
five in the playoffs.

"Because they are the Devils, because they are so hated in
Philadelphia, it's rewarding to beat them," Flyers captain Keith
Primeau said.

Esche finished with 31 saves, and allowed nine goals in the
series on 155 shots. He wasn't named the starting goalie until
after the season ended, beating out veteran Sean Burke for the
spot.

Zhamnov gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead with 6:22 left in the first,
scoring into an open net after a crisp pass from Tony Amonte.

Zhamnov, acquired from Chicago two months ago, had three goals
and four assists in the series. A 12-year NHL veteran, Zhamnov had
two goals in just three trips to the playoffs with Winnipeg and the
Blackhawks.

Niedermayer tied it at 1 with 6:24 left in the second. He
backhanded a shot past Esche during a flurry by the Devils.
Niedermayer's goal snapped a scoreless drought of 106 minutes, 26
seconds for New Jersey.

Zhamnov sped past Niedermayer early in the third and slipped a
shot past Brodeur, who turned around and stopped the puck before it
went in.

But Brodeur couldn't handle Markov's shot minutes later,
allowing a rare soft goal. He finished with 37 saves.

Esche made a nice save on a wrist shot by Patrik Elias late in
the third, and made a few stops in the final minute.

The Devils missed perennial All-Star defenseman Scott Stevens,
who sat out the series with post-concussion syndrome.

"It certainly would have made a difference to have him out
there," Devils coach Pat Burns said.

New Jersey scored a goal that was negated by a penalty during
its first power play. Paul Martin slapped a shot past Esche seconds
after Jeff Friesen hooked Keith Primeau in the corner.

"I have seen some really special things," Hitchcock said.
"This team showed something in the third period that is impressive
and hopefully a sign of things to come."

Game notes
The Flyers led 1-0 after the first period of each game. ...
After closing out the regular season 1-for-37 on the power play,
the Flyers were 4-for-12 with the extra man against the Devils. ...
Devils C Viktor Kozlov was benched for the third time in the
series. ... A crowd of 19,778 turned out for the third consecutive
sellout in Philadelphia. ... Fans booed when it was announced that
tickets for Game 7 were on sale.