GAME: Philadelphia Flyers at New Jersey Devils.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinal; Flyers lead 2-0.
TIME: Monday, 7 p.m. EDT.
During their run to the Stanley Cup last year, the New Jersey Devils did not face a must-win game until their third series of the playoffs.
While a loss Monday won't eliminate them from the postseason, the Devils really have to win to have any hope of advancing to the second round.
With Martin Brodeur getting outplayed and Scott Stevens unlikely to be ready, the Devils must regroup as they return home trying to avoid a 3-0 series deficit in their quarterfinal matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Plenty of teams have overcome 3-1 deficits, including three last season, but no team in 29 years has won a series after losing the first three games. The New York Islanders did it in 1975 and the only other club to do it was Toronto in 1942.
New Jersey did erase a 3-1 deficit to beat Philadelphia in the 2000 Eastern Conference finals.
The Devils opened this series by losing 3-2 in both games at Philadelphia. Last year, they defeated Boston and Tampa Bay in five games, then needed seven to beat Ottawa in the conference finals and Anaheim in the Stanley Cup finals.
"Obviously the pressure's on us a little bit more," New Jersey center Scott Gomez said. "We've been in situations like this. We're going to play a smart home game and hopefully come out on top."
Brodeur had a 1.65 goals-against average in last year's playoffs, but has given up six goals on just 44 shots in this series. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner was fourth in the league during the regular season with a 2.03 GAA.
"They're making good dumps and I can't play the puck at all," Brodeur said.
"When you lose by one goal, you always hopefully made the big save, but that didn't happen the first two games, so hopefully I've got to be better the rest of the series if we're going to go anywhere."
Robert Esche, who had appeared in only one NHL playoff game before this season, clearly has been the better of the two netminders. He stopped 37 shots in the series opener and made 24 saves in Game 2 on Saturday.
Not having Stevens has had a profound effect on Brodeur and the rest of the Devils. The All-Star defenseman, sidelined since early January with post-concussion syndrome, was hoping to return for this series but the team remains unsure if or when he will play.
New Jersey went 2-0-1 in the first three matchups of the season against Philadelphia with Stevens on the ice, but has since lost all five with its captain out of the lineup.
One area in which Stevens is sorely missed is penalty killing. Among the league leaders in that category during the regular season, the Devils have given up a power-play goal in both defeats despite allowing the Flyers just four opportunities with the man advantage.
Philadelphia has killed off all seven New Jersey power plays in the series.
"We knew if we're going to have a chance, no matter what we did on the power play, we'd have to do a good job killing penalties," said coach Ken Hitchcock, whose Flyers have yet to trail in this series. "If we didn't do that, we'd be on edge in other parts of our game."
The trio of Alexei Zhamnov, Jeremy Roenick and Tony Amonte has been Hitchcock's best line offensively in this series. In Saturday's victory, Zhamnov's first playoff goal in eight years gave Philadelphia a 2-1 lead in the second period. Zhamnov and Roenick then assisted on defenseman Mattias Timander's goal midway through the third.
Roenick knows quite a challenge still lies ahead for the Flyers.
"We realize we're going against the Stanley Cup champions, a tremendous team," he said. "If we're not poised and composed, they'd walk all over us."
Game 4 is Wednesday night.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Flyers - 101 points; 3rd seed. Devils - 100 points; 6th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Flyers - six with 1 goal; Kim Johnsson, 3 assists; Johnsson, Roenick and Zhamnov, 3 points; Sami Kapanen, 4 PIM. Devils - Jan Hrdina, 2 goals; Scott Gomez, Jamie Langenbrunner and Erik Rasmussen, 2 assists; six with 2 points; Scott Niedermayer, 4 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Flyers - Power play: 50 percent (2 for 4). Penalty killing: 100 percent (7 for 7). Devils - Power play: 0 percent (0 for 7). Penalty killing: 50 percent (2 for 4).
GOALTENDERS: Flyers - Esche (2-0, 2.00 GAA); Sean Burke (no appearances). Devils - Brodeur (0-2, 3.03 GAA); Scott Clemmensen (no appearances).