- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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WHAT IT MEANS: For the first time ever, the Devils have beaten the Flyers in playoff overtime.
Alexei Ponikarovsky scored with 2:39 left in OT on Thursday night, lifting the Devils to a 4-3 victory over the Flyers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. New Jersey now leads the best-of-seven series 2-1.
Starting his 180th straight playoff game, Martin Brodeur made 26 saves to earn his 105th career postseason win. The future Hall of Fame goaltender is now 15-22 in his postseason overtime career.
The Devils had been 0-3 against the Flyers in sudden death in the postseason.
HE’S BAAACK! After missing Game 2 with what the Devils are calling a lower-body injury, Ilya Kovalchuk returned to the lineup and made quite an impact in Game 3. The 29-year-old superstar right winger recorded a goal and two assists.
THANKS, CAPTAIN: Zach Parise stuffed in a pass from Patrik Elias on the doorstep with 12:31 remaining, giving the Devils a 3-2 edge. Parise created his fourth goal of the playoffs by coming in aggressively on the forecheck.
WHAT A SWING! After Kovalchuk rang a shot off the post that could have made it 4-2 for New Jersey, Danny Briere tallied his NHL-leading eighth goal of the playoffs on the ensuing Flyers rush to knot the game at 3 with 8:56 left. It was Briere’s 50th career postseason marker.
RECORD TIME: Elias and Kovalchuk scored just 20 seconds apart in the first, establishing a playoff record for fastest time between goals. Petr Sykora and Bobby Holik held the previous mark (26 seconds against Philadelphia on May 14, 2000).
Elias (third goal of the playoffs) tied the game with a power-play slap shot from the right circle, and Kovalchuk (fourth) gave the Devils the lead shortly after, taking Travis Zajac's deft cross-ice pass and whipping a quick wrister from between the hash marks.
WAVE IT OFF: James van Riemsdyk appeared to give Philadelphia a 3-2 lead with 2:08 left in the second, but the goal was disallowed because Brayden Schenn interfered with Brodeur in front.
SCHENN-SATIONAL: Schenn capitalized on Philadephia’s first power-play opportunity, beating Brodeur from the left circle 6:08 into the first to put the Flyers on top 1-0. Philadelphia had been 1-for-11 on the man advantage in the first two games of the series.
INJURY UPDATE: Sean Couturier suffered a lower-body injury in the first period and did not return. The rookie center got tangled up with David Clarkson and cut his leg.
CHANGES: With Kovalchuk back, hybrid winger/defenseman Peter Harrold was scratched. The Devils also shuffled their last three lines.
UP NEXT: Game 4 on Sunday night at the Prudential Center.
63dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald