(Philadelphia, PA) – Holding a precarious 1-0 lead, Scottie Upshall and Joffrey Lupul scored third period goals just 37 seconds apart and the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the New Jersey Devils at the Wachovia Center on Friday night, 3-0.
Martin Biron stopped all 22 shots he faced to record his fourth shutout of the season.
Coupled with a Carolina loss to the Florida Panthers, the Flyers clinched a spot in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Their seed in the Eastern Conference and the opponent they will face in the first round is yet to be determined. The Flyers conclude the regular season on Sunday against Pittsburgh (3:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).
With several doom-and-gloom scenarios painted by the media and fans alike after a loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the achievement was not lost on head coach John Stevens.
“It feels great. It feels unbelievable,” he said after the game. “We obviously left it to the very end but to see the joy on the faces of these guys…I think they battled hard. We’ve obviously had some ups and downs, but man, what a great accomplishment for this group.”
“It’s nice to have it behind us and be in the playoffs and not have to rely not other teams to help us out,” said Mike Richards. “It is a nice feeling right now to know we worked hard to get into the playoffs.”
“We have great guys here and we can be very dangerous in the playoffs,” said R.J. Umberger.
The Flyers will make their 32nd appearance in the postseason in 41 seasons after missing out last year.
With New Jersey on a third period power play trailing 1-0, Travis Zajac was whistled for slashing Richards. That led to a four-on-four situation, in which Upshall and Lupul gave Philadelphia a much more comfortable lead.
Jeff Carter won an offensive zone draw and Upshall was left alone in the slot for a goal at 11:16, before Richards found Lupul with a perfect pass from the corner at 11:53 for the tip-in.
The sellout crowd of 19,957 took over from there, and the Flyers cruised to their sixth win in the last eight games. It also marked their first win against New Jersey since the first meeting of the season on October 18 between the clubs, ending a six-game winless streak.
“This is as [well] as we played all year,” said Stevens. “You look at your team and you go up and down your lineup, and there is not a guy on our team that you can find fault in. It was a great team effort from the goalie on out. They just looked like a team that was not going to be stopped.”
“We played pretty close to a perfect game,” added Richards.
Philadelphia came out of the gate as strong as it has all season, pressuring Brodeur and the Devils’ defense shift after shift. Brodeur made some impressive saves early, including a pad stop on Upshall and a save on Patrick Thoresen from the slot.
Philadelphia kept up the pressure, though, and took the lead on a goal by Umberger. After Vaclav Prospal’s point shot deflected to the corner, Umberger quickly got to the loose puck and threw it on net. He was looking for Scott Hartnell who was stationed in front, but the puck bounced off of the stick of New Jersey defenseman Mike Mottau at 5:44.
“We wanted to set the tone right away. We were excited,” said Umberger. “We were fired up and ready to go in the locker room before the game. “The crowd came here early. They were excited and fired up too, and that just helped with the energy.”
The Flyers outshot their Atlantic Division rivals 14-6 in the first period, and it was more of the same in the second. After 40 minutes, shots stood at 31-12 in favor of Philadelphia.
The Flyers’ best opportunity to score in the second came when Johnny Oduya fired a puck into the stands from his own zone, leading to a two-man advantage for what would have been almost a minute and half. It was quickly nullified by a Richards interference call, and later a Carter trip during the four-on-four put New Jersey on the power play, which included a brief two-man advantage of its own.
Philadelphia killed that power play off, as well as a holding call to Braydon Coburn at the 20-minute mark of the second period. The Flyers were 4-for-4 on the penalty kill, but 0-for-4 on the power play.
Danny Briere, arguably the team’s best player in the last month, missed the game with a lower body injury. Upshall, who was a healthy scratch Wednesday in Pittsburgh, was reinserted into the lineup as was Steve Downie, who took the place of a flu-ridden Sami Kapanen on the fourth line.
Biron’s best save of the night came during a two-on-one shorthanded rush by the Devils in the first period with the Flyers ahead. John Madden had the puck alone in front of the net but Biron stopped him, and the rebound attempt by Madden went wide.
Lupul became the Flyers’ seventh 20-goal scorer this season. … Brodeur was pulled from the net for Kevin Weekes after Lupul’s goal. … The Flyers are 6-1-1 in their last eight games. … Philadelphia won its fourth straight home game. … The Flyers are 28-7-7 when scoring first; 18-8-3 when outshooting their opponent; 29-1-3 when leading after two periods; and 16-12-3 against the Atlantic Division.