- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2000

PHILADELPHIA Perhaps it was time for the boys to be taken out behind the woodshed and given a good tongue-lashing. If that was the remedy to the problem, it worked.

The New Jersey Devils rebounded from a poor performance to stay alive another night in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, pounding the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 in a road game in which they were every bit as sharp as they were awful at home Saturday night.

However, the Devils still have a ways to go before reaching the next round. They narrowed their deficit in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference finals to 3-2, meaning they have to win both remaining games while Philadelphia has to win just one to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.

While the Flyers seemed confident before the game they would end the series last night, it was not the same team that had won two straight in East Rutherford, N.J. For one thing, they appeared to be distracted by some of the little harassing tricks employed by the Devils. And once that became evident, professional pests like Claude Lemieux were at their agitating best.

After the Devils played a horrible third period Saturday night, coach Larry Robinson entered the dressing room and closed the door behind him. But cinderblock walls did not damper the sound of heavy items bouncing off the walls or the liberal use of four-letter words.

"This team responds very well," Robinson said when asked if he thought his tirade had a positive effect on his team. He refused, however, to reveal what was said behind the closed doors.

"I'm a very fortunate person to be able to take over a group of guys who have listened to what we as coaches have been trying to say, and tonight was another example."

One outburst seems to have been enough. New Jersey's play was improved from the start, while the Flyers appeared to be waiting for a jump-start. By the time it came, it was too late.

Jason Arnott and Bobby Holik put the Devils up 2-0 in the first period, with the latter scoring for the third time in five games after 28 straight games in the playoffs without a goal. Neither shot was particularly tough or artistic, and Flyers goalie Brian Boucher looked like a rookie for the first time in the series.

"I thought they were real good early," Flyers coach Craig Ramsay said. "They made a lot of good plays to get the puck deep on us. They were jumping, they came at us hard and we were maybe not quite as ready as we normally are. I thought they deserved a lot of credit tonight."

Petr Sykora scored early in the second for the Devils, and then the Flyers came to life briefly with a goal by Valeri Zelepukin. However, Patrik Elias scored early in the third for New Jersey, and any doubt about the result was erased.

The truly bad news for Philadelphia may be that Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who was considered the biggest plus for either team before the series, looked as sharp as he has looked this postseason. He had lost three in a row to the Flyers, surrendering 11 goals.

"[Brodeur] made the big stops," Robinson said. "I was a little [upset] after that one went off the glass and came back out front. Especially in this building I prefer the goaltender not to go out of the net. The puck could bounce anywhere. He made some huge stops for us. He was very strong for us."

There was a nasty, accidental incident, three minutes into the second period. The Flyers' John LeClair, who is competing with 39 stitches in his face, checked Devils center Sergei Nemchinov into the boards in the neutral zone. Nemchinov's head hit the Plexiglas where two pieces meet, a seam separated and the left side of the center's face came in contact with the exposed edge.

Nemchinov collapsed on his back and didn't move for several seconds. He turned over with help, and puddles of blood were visible. Forty stitches were required to close the wound.

Notes The NHL yesterday announced the dates for the Stanley Cup finals. The first two games will be played in the East city May 30 and June 1 before switching to the West for games June 3 and 5. Then, if necessary, it will be June 8 in the East, June 10 in the West and June 12 in the West. All of the games will start at 8:10 p.m., with the first two televised by ESPN and the rest on ABC. The late starting time appears to be an attempt to make the games available to West Coast viewers at a time other than rush hour… .

Flyers center Daymond Langkow, who sustained a concussion in Game 2 of this series, was back taking a regular shift last night. It was the only lineup change by either team.

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