Devils escape the playoff shadows

PHILADELPHIA -- If it’s fair to say the New Jersey Devils were more than a little under the radar coming into this series, it is likewise fair to note that their dominating performance over the Philadelphia Flyers means those days in the shadows are over.

“You know what? We [are] that kind of team who we never get talk about us, but it’s nice we just want to do our thing and in the end we’ll see what’s going to happen,” offered Ilya Kovalchuk whose bullet of a drive on the power play gave the Devils a 3-1 lead Tuesday night, an emphatic statement that summed up the Devils’ dominance in the series.

“You know, nobody give us a lot of credit, but we want to be the underdogs, it’s nice,” added Kovalchuk, who also had an assist on the Devils’ first goal and finished the series with two goals and five assists.

Certainly the Flyers couldn’t heap enough praise on the Devils, who struggled at times in a seven-game set with Florida in the first round but played virtually without flaw in breezing through their second-round series with the Flyers in just five games.

“If you want me to be honest, I got to say they were very strong," said flyers forward Jaromir Jagr. "They were strong on the boards. I don’t think they lost any battles on the boards. That was the biggest difference. I hate to say that, I hate that feeling, but they were very strong on the boards. That surprised me.”

Jagr had just one assist in the series.

"If somebody make a mistake, there was always a second guy,” he said.

The Devils will now await the winner of the Washington Capitals-New York Rangers series as they prepare for their first berth in the Eastern Conference finals since 2003.

Netminder Martin Brodeur, who turned 40 on Sunday, was of course the goaltender of record in that 2003 conference final and the Cup finals series that followed as the Devils defeated Anaheim in seven games that spring for the team’s third Stanley Cup championship.

But the post-lockout playoffs have not been kind to the Devils. They missed the playoffs last season and had been bounced in the first round the three previous seasons.

“Wow, it seems forever for a lot of guys, but for me it is nine years. It’s tough to do that,” Brodeur said.

“I think we’re fortunate to have made it there so far and were looking forward to it.”

The Devils gave up the first goal in the last four games of the series and even in the face of some very physical play early in Game 5 did not waver from their game plan.

"Really proud of our group,” New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer said. "Proud of how we stuck to the game plan. Proud of how we turned the other cheek. Proud of how hard we competed against a very hardworking and competitive team. It gets tougher from there."

Added captain Zach Parise: “It’s rewarding for us. We set ourselves up pretty well. We played some good hockey against Philadelphia. Now we can get some rest and watch and see who we’re playing against.”