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Cullen: Briere leads Flyers, Coyotes go up 2-0

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Scott Cullen
4/30/2012 1:15:50 AM
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Philadelphia rallied from a slow start to take down the Devils and Phoenix turned up the heat on Nashville.

Scott Cullen looks at Sunday's playoff action.

DANNY BOY
Flyers C Daniel Briere scored two goals, including the winner in overtime, as the Philadelphia Flyers won Game One 4-3 over the New Jersey Devils.

Briere now has 10 points in seven playoff games, second only to teammate Claude Giroux.

While Briere has been a factor throughtout the playoffs, the Flyers also received a strong performance from a winger who is just getting back into the swing of things. James van Riemsdyk, playing with Briere and Jakub Voracek, scored his first goal and registered a game-high five shots on goal in his third game of the playoffs. But this was really van Riemsdyk's first game as a regular, playing a total of 14:17 in a couple of games against Pittsburgh, but 17:31 in Game One against New Jersey.

The Devils outshot the Flyers 15-6 in the opening frame, but were unable to sustain an attack after that, getting outshot 30-11. (It's also fantastic that both teams combined for 11 shots on goal in an overtime that lasteed 4:36; that's equivalent to being on pace for 143 shots on goal in a 60-minute game.)

New Jersey also shuffled lines, moving Alexei Ponikarovsky to a unit with Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk. Zajac scored a power play goal, giving him a team-high seven points in the postseason. Kovalchuk was held without a shot on goal, something that happened twice all season, the last time on November 23, 2011. With his ice time dipping to a playoff-low 21:20, there is some suspicion that Kovalchuk may not be 100% healthy.

Zach Parise, who moved to a line with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus, added a goal and an assist and he's now tied with David Clarkson, one point behind Zajac in the team playoff scoring race.

Considering how the Devils' offence was stifled after the first period, there may be more line-juggling ahead. They had an opportunity to steal the first game of the series, but will have to generate more offence, a job that gets increasingly difficult if Kovalchuk isn't one of the driving forces.

FREEWHEELING COYOTES
Apparently the Phoenix Coyotes were determined to bury their image as a defence-first, counter-attacking team, because they carried the territorial play and won 5-3 against the Nashville Predators, taking a 2-0 series lead.

Phoenix registered 39 shots on goal, a total they surpassed six times during the regular season, but only one of those six instances came against a playoff team.

Five Coyotes had multi-pointgames: Shane Doan, Martin Hanzal, Antoine Vermette, Radim Vrbata and Keith Yandle. Vermette, who had eight points in 42 career playoff games prior to this postseason, now leads the Coyotes with eight points in eight games in these playoffs.

Not only was it troubling for the Predators to allow 39 shots, two days after outshooting them 42-24, but Pekka Rinne allowed five goals. Oddly enough, for a Vezina finalist, Rinne allowed five goals in six of his 72 starts this season. The other Vezina finalists, Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick, had one game between the two of them (Quick, vs. San Jose) in which they allowed five goals against.

Nashville's Gabriel Bourque and David Legwand were both a minus-3 on the night, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson was plus-3 for Phoenix.

Ryan Suter, playing a game-high 30:20 for Nashville, had six shots on goal to lead all Predators. Phoenix was led by Gilbert Brule, who had six shots on goal in just 7:48 of ice time.

Nashville now heads home down two games to none, with a certain amount of desperation for Game Three. They will have to tighten up defensively, and that includes goaltending, because they can't win if they're giving up nine goals every two games.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Danny Briere (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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