- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2000

PHILADELPHIA New Jersey Devils coach Larry Robinson seemed somewhat taken aback yesterday when a questioner wanted to know, after one game, how confident the Devils' coach was about putting Philadelphia away.

"We won the first game," Robinson said, "but if memory serves me correctly, Pittsburgh won the first two games." He didn't bother to add that the Penguins, after losing four in a row to the Flyers, are now on the golf course and not on the ice.

It is doubtful the same fate awaits New Jersey.

Robinson, the former Montreal defenseman who is in the Hall of Fame, said he was not pleased with his club's performance yesterday despite the fact the Devils systemically took Philadelphia apart en route to a 4-1 victory and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference finals. Game 2 is tomorrow night in Philadelphia.

New Jersey took a 1-0 lead on Scott Niedermayer's goal in the first minute, the Flyers tied it seven minutes later when Mark Recchi got the only goal Martin Brodeur would allow, then Petr Sykora and Bobby Holik scored 26 seconds apart late in the first for the Devils and the game was history. Superpest Claude Lemieux added insult to injury when he scored on a power play in the third.

"They made some really good plays on their goals," said acting Flyers coach Craig Ramsay, stating the obvious but also defending the play of rookie goaltender Brian Boucher. "We felt we were really in good shape when it was 1-1, we started to create some opportunities and all of a sudden they got those two quick ones and it was a whole new game."

And that was the problem. With Brodeur in net and with the Devils playing their trapping defense to perfection, the Flyers were on life support before the second period started, despite Robinson's claims that his team didn't play as well as he would have liked.

"I thought we sat back a little too much until about midway through the second period," Robinson said. "We went a little bit in fits and starts; we'd go to an extreme defensively and sometimes to an extreme offensively. I figured we'd be a little bit rusty because we hadn't played [since last Monday] so we got to get our game legs back a little bit."

Philadelphia was out of action almost as long but had several players either injured or playing less than 100 percent. Former captain Eric Lindros is still out with a concussion and center Keith Primeau, the man the Flyers traded for to replace Lindros in the event he couldn't play, was a late addition to the lineup after he was cleared from a concussion. Defenseman Ulf Samuelsson is out with a bum knee and center Daymond Langkow played despite a groin problem.

So the Devils did to the Flyers what the Flyers normally do to other teams they took liberties with the bodies. Those are liberties that might be penalties during the regular season but go unnoticed during the playoffs. They protected Brodeur's space like it was a bank vault. Other than Recchi's goal, the Flyers' best scoring chance came when Devils' captain Scott Stevens accidentally deflected a shot from point-blank range, but that also proved to be no problem.

"I didn't like some of the things we were doing," Robinson said. "They were old habits that creep up from time to time that we still haven't gotten out of our system. But you have to be happy with the fact that you didn't play well but you have the lead as opposed to not doing those things and saying these are the reasons we're behind."

Not much seemed to please Robinson other than the score.

"They got more shots than I would like to see," he said. "They got way too many chances so we have to shore that up. It's something we will address."

Of course, in the Devils' previous game, Toronto got only six shots all night.

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