|Briere falls to one knee after ending Game 1 in overtime. (Getty Images)|
PHILADELPHIA -- "I think some people rise to big occasions."
Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette understands that Danny Briere is just a playoff performer. You have guys that pop up with big postseasons from year to year, like Sean Bergenheim and Joel Ward last year at this time. But Briere? He is always there. The playoffs are his time.
Briere is so money when the playoffs are going on that he had the joy of celebrating an OT winner not once but twice in the same game on Sunday afternoon. The Dos Equis most interesting man in the world is jealous. Oh sure, the first was obviously wiped off the board, but he came back on the next shift to finish off Game 1 for real, giving the Flyers a 4-3 win over the Devils.
"The first one initially on the ice I didn't think I kicked it. I was trying to stop and it bounced off my skate," Briere said after the game. "But looking at the replay I think it's a little obvious, I think they made the right call on that. But there's a few seconds there where you're like 'Come on, they blew the call. I can't believe this is happening.'
"I was fortunate enough to have another break."
Either that or he made his own break. That's kind of Briere's thing in the postseason, you know. It's like he's becoming the Reggie Jackson of the Flyers or something.
In the last three postseasons, Briere has 25 goals in 41 games for the Flyers. He has been a point-producing machine on hockey's biggest stage, and in the biggest moments.
"I grew up watching playoff hockey and when I was a kid I always dreamed in playing in one of those big games," Briere said. "When I have the opportunity like I have right now this year, the last few years, I try to make the best of it, enjoy it as much as possible. It's not really pressure, it's a fun time, exciting time."
Of course no goal is going to be bigger than an overtime winner, so I won't even try to say that here. But Briere's first goal of the night in the second period was almost as big for the Flyers. It finally got them some real traction in the game. And of course reinforced that when the playoffs are here, Briere is a force.
He found himself streaking behind the pinching Devils defensemen and then was off to the races thanks to an outstanding outlet pass from Jakub Voracek, one of his new-line partners along with James Van Riemsdyk. It was a thing of beauty -- unless you're a Devils fan, that is.
It was the hard work paying off for the Flyers in their attempt at turning the tide of the game. It was followed just 37 seconds later by a JVR goal. The Flyers had awoken.
You can't blame the Flyers if they got the sense that it should have been easier than it was for them in Game 1. Shots and goals, especially in the playoffs, aren't supposed to come as easily as they did in the first round against the Penguins.
But they were reminded against the Devils that it's a lot tougher row to hoe when you are playing a team that is executing at any level defensively greater than miserable.
Or maybe it was rust -- a viable explanation after a week between games -- or maybe it was just getting used to playing against a team that has defensemen playing defense, but the Flyers only managed six shots in the first period.
"Nobody liked the first period. The players didn't like, I didn't like it, the fans didn't like it," Laviolette said. "We're not going to be successful playing that way. It was clearly for me the start of the second period and for the remainder of the game that we started to skate and jump and execute a little more. It was good to get out of the first period only down 1-0."
From there it was domination by the Flyers. The shots began 11-0 in favor of the Devils. They finished 36-26 in favor of Philadelphia. The last, of course, being the most important one of all.
Now it wouldn't be a playoff goal, especially this season, if there wasn't some controversy on it. Briere fired the puck from the point and it managed to get through the crowd in front and into the back of the net. Some wondered if JVR, setting the screen of Brodeur, got his stick on it. He didn't, but Brodeur said he got in on the play in another way.
"The referees have a hard job. They see it live," Brodeur said after the game. "Definitely van Riemsdyk pushed my stick over when he came across. He didn't do it on purpose. I think he's just going in front of the net. I've got my position there, but it prevented me from making the save and when it goes so quick like that for the referee, especially after disallowing one kicking goal, they wouldn't do that twice in Philly, that's for sure."
Devils coach Peter DeBoer, clearly not wanting to get himself in trouble, conceded after the game that it "looked like it" when referring to any contact with Brodeur on the goal.
No matter, it was overturned and Briere got to be the hero again.
"I think just through the course of history in sports there are people who answer the bell," Laviolette said. "When things are on the line there are certain people answer the bell."
And as usual, it was for Briere that the bell tolled.