EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—The blackboard in the Philadelphia Flyers’ locker room showed one of coach Ken Hitchcock’s growing concerns heading into Game 4 against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.
Written on the second line of the to-do items was the abbreviation: “PK.”
The penalty kill let the Flyers down three times in a 4-2 loss in Game 3, allowing the defending champion Devils to get back into their best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
That wasn’t the only problem Hitchcock focused on Tuesday as the Flyers held an optional workout.
The line that carried the Flyers in the latter part of the season—92 points in the last 39 games—has one goal and no assists in three postseason games.
“We talked about it, and we feel our line can play a little bit better,” LeClair said. “That’s what we are aiming to do. It’s not like we haven’t had chances. We just need to chip in a little better.”
Hitchcock said the line just needs to play.
“They have been guilty of trying to make a special play rather than keep it simple,” Hitchcock said. “They are really a good line when they keep it simple and that’s what we talked about to all our lines. If we were guilty of anything yesterday, we tried to complicate it a little too much.”
While Hitchcock had the final change in the first two games in Philadelphia, he didn’t seem to mind having Madden go against his top unit. In Game 3, his top line had two shots.
Though Hitchcock said he was planning some moves for Devils coach Pat Burns to counter, the big line didn’t seem to be one of them.
“We don’t put any more pressure (on ourselves) than we have to,” Recchi said. “We try to go out and have fun and play. We know what is expected of us and we go out and try to do it. It doesn’t always go the way you want, but we’ll work hard and try to do some things to help the team.”
The Flyers also need to be a little more disciplined in Game 4. They gave the Devils five extra-man chances Monday night, and New Jersey converted three times.
Two of the goals could have been prevented. Rookie Paul Martin scored on a scramble in front after Philadelphia failed to clear the puck and Patrik Elias banked the game-winner into the net off the hip of Flyers defenseman Kim Johnsson late in the second period.
“We scrambled out of position,” Flyers center Jeremy Roenick said. “We panicked too much and tried to do too much when all we needed to do was make the smart little play.”
Philadelphia had killed off all seven Devils power plays in the first two games.
Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur stressed the importance of winning Game 4.
“You don’t want a do-or-die game in Philly,” Brodeur said. “That’s one of the toughest places to play.”
For the Flyers, that would be the perfect scenario.
“We’re still up 2-1 and this is a huge opportunity for us to go up 3-1,” Recchi said. “We know we are going to be a lot better.”