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Briere comes through again for Flyers; His second goal of game beats Devils in overtime

PHILADELPHIA -- Danny Briere had two chances to celebrate his overtime winner.

The first time, his goal didn't count.

The second time, Briere left no doubt and put away Game One, once and for all.

Briere continued to stamp his name alongside Philadelphia's postseason greats, scoring the winning goal 4:36 into overtime, leading the Flyers to a 4-3 win over the New Jersey Devils on Sunday to open this Eastern Conference semifinal series.

"He has his ups and downs, but he just picks it up in the playoffs. And that's what matters," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's a guy who consistently gets it done."

Indeed, no Flyer is as clutch in the postseason as Briere.

His second attempt at the winner counted minutes after his earlier goal was overturned on review because he kicked the puck into the net. But he wasted no time making up for it, firing a slapper past Martin Brodeur for his seventh goal of the playoffs. Brodeur was screened in front by Philadelphia forward James van Riemsdyk.

"When you look at the replay, it's kind of obvious," Briere said of the reversal. "But I needed to stop pouting and get back my focus in overtime. I ended up getting a break."

In doing so, Briere, who also scored in the second period, now has 106 points in 104 career postseason games.

"Is it pressure? I think it's fun," he said of playoff hockey. "When I have the opportunity, like I've had the past few years here, I try to take advantage of the opportunities."

Game Two is Tuesday.

The Flyers took the series lead in their first game in a week after eliminating Pittsburgh in Game Six last Sunday. The weary Devils, meanwhile, played their third consecutive overtime game after defeating Florida in Games Six and Seven to win their first-round series.

"I thought we played real well in the first," New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer said. "We just couldn't keep it up."

The Flyers put a slow start well behind them in the third and completely set the pace. They used a tremendous forecheck to stave off the Devils and played with more life in their skates than a worn-down Devils team that had only a three-day break.

And then, there's Flyers forward Claude Giroux. The postseason's leading scorer got himself into the series, as well, in the third period. Giroux, in fact, wound from the circle and fired the puck high over Brodeur's right shoulder for a power-play goal and a 3-2 lead. It was Giroux's seventh goal of the postseason, perhaps living up to Laviolette's bold claim as "the best in the world."

Veteran forward Petr Sykora wiped out the lead, though, when he raced past two defenders off a turnover and slipped the puck through Ilya Bryzgalov's pads for a soft goal to make it 3-3. It was his first playoff goal since 2008.

***

Coyotes make statement

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes didn't need any overtime theatrics or miracle saves from Mike Smith.

With five players scoring in a balanced, dominant performance Sunday night, the Coyotes beat the Nashville Predators, 5-3, to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series.

Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata, Antoine Vermette and Martin Hanzal each had a goal and an assist, and Taylor Pyatt also scored.

"This is the best 60 minutes we've played in the playoffs, for sure," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "Just solid throughout."

Ryan Suter, Patric Hornqvist and Andrei Kostitsyn scored for the Predators.

Phoenix scored three times on 19 second-period shots. The Coyotes built a two-goal lead early in the second period. Nashville twice cut it to one only to see Phoenix quickly respond.

The Coyotes avoided overtime for only the second time in eight playoff games.

"Tonight was more Coyotes-style hockey, the way we are capable of playing," Smith said. "We just raised the bar for ourselves."

The best-of-seven series shifts to Nashville for Game Three on Wednesday night.

Keith Yandle had two assists for Phoenix. Ray Whitney, who scored in overtime in Phoenix's 4-3 victory in Game One on Friday night, had one.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz said his team has been outscored 8-3 in five-on-five situations.

"Look at a lot of the goals, there's people staring at the puck and not taking anybody," he said, "and that's not going to win you anything."

After being outshot 42-24 in Game One, the Coyotes had a playoff-high 39 shots to Nashville's 33 in Game Two. The Coyotes knew how fortunate they were to escape with that Game One victory and weren't about to have a repeat performance.

"This is the way we want to play," Vrbata said. "This is the way we think we will be successful."

With its offensive production, Phoenix didn't need to lean on Smith's heroics quite so much.

"Tonight we didn't count on him completely," Doan said. "We actually made it so he had a little bit of breathing room instead of having to be perfect."

Smith had 30 saves to 34 for Predators goalie Pekka Rinne.

"I have to be better, no question, but also we have to be better as a team," Rinne said. "That always goes hand and hand. We just have to bear down. We have scored enough goals to win hockey games and we're just giving up too many goals right now."

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