Flyers Snap Losing Skid, Rout Devils 5-1

A day after an ugly loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Philadelphia Flyers came up with a big effort in a 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

The win snapped a five game losing streak and six losses in their last seven contests, a skid in which they saw their cushion on the eighth and final playoff spot shrink to just two points over the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday.  As a result of the win over New Jersey, the Flyers leapfrogged over the idle Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens into sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Just as they did in Saturday’s game, Philly jumped out to a quick lead.

Defenseman Matt Carle, in his first game back after missing the last two with a foot injury, took a perfect backhand feed in stride from Scott Hartnell in the slot.  With Darroll Powe screening Devils’ goaltender Martin Brodeur, Carle’s snap shot glanced off of Brodeur’s glove and into the net.  Arron Asham did a nice job of carrying the puck into the zone and passing to Hartnell to start the play.

At the 53 second mark, it was 1-0 Philadelphia.

Midway through the opening frame, the Ville Leino-Danny Briere-Simon Gagne line was rewarded for some nice cycling in the New Jersey zone.  Briere centered a pass from behind the net to Gagne at the left side of the crease, and the puck bounced over to Leino at the right post for the tap-in.  After 8:18, Philly’s lead was now 2-0.

With Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond off for high-sticking, the Flyers made it 3-0 at the 45 second mark of the second when Kimmo Timonen’s blast from the left point beat Brodeur inside the far post.  It was a power play goal, incredibly just Timonen’s first PP marker of the season, and snapped an 0-20 streak of power play futility for the Orange-and-Black.

Timonen and Chris Pronger each had to shake off dings in the second period.  Timonen sprawled to block a shot and took the full impact in the ribs.  Pronger got in the way of an Ilya Kovalchuk slapshot and was drilled in the right shoulder, dropping him in a heap.  The team can ill afford an injury to either of these top two defensive stalwarts.

Flyers’ starter Brian Boucher came up big for Philly all night, stopping 32 of 33 shots.  He stopped the ever-dangerous Patrik Elias on a breakaway with just over a minute left in the second, keeping the score 3-0.

With just 40 ticks left on the clock in the middle stanza, defenseman Lukas Krajicek scored his first goal as a Flyer.  Krajicek wristed a shot from the point that deflected off of Travis Zajac’s stick in the slot and found it’s way past Brodeur.

Philadelphia led 4-0 after two, and New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire had seen enough.  He pulled Brodeur and replaced him with Yann Danis to start the third.

Kovalchuk broke Boucher’s shutout bid at the 10:20 mark with a one-timer off of a Brian Rolston centering pass from behind the net.

The Devils had really carried play through the entire third frame up to this point, outshooting the Orange-and-Black 9-1.

But the Flyers answered as Gagne restored the four-goal lead just 32 seconds later, ripping a snap shot past Danis from the right circle off of a beautiful feed from Leino.

The Leino-Briere-Gagne line had the look of some real chemistry-in-the-making, and for a team starving for offense, it couldn’t come at a better time.  And no one could appreciate their effort more than Boucher, who had just 25 goals of offensive support in his last 15 starts.

Boucher faced 25 shots in the final two periods, stopping 24.  This was the type of performance that coach Peter Laviolette has been looking for since Michael Leighton went down with a high ankle sprain.

And Laviolette also has to be happy with the offensive support that Boucher received tonight.  The five goal outburst marked the first time in the past 15 games that the Flyers had scored more than three goals in a game.  So the team’s goal drought had been active long before sniper Jeff Carter was injured.

What Laviolette must do now is find a way to keep the momentum going.  He has found a nice combination with the Leino-Briere-Gagne line, now he must find some other lines that click and can add sustained offensive pressure to the mix.

The two goals from defenseman (Carle and Timonen) were also a positive sign.  When a club is struggling offensively the way Philadelphia has, they can use contributions  from all sources.  Laviolette has made a noticeable effort to have his D men jumping into the play much more since Carter’s injury.

A great example of this is Oskars Bartulis, who has been involved in more offensive rushes over the past week than he had all season long.

Braydon Coburn has also made several more plays deep in the offensive zone than he had earlier in the year, using his great skating stride to his advantage.

And the Flyers can use every bit of offensive contribution down the stretch as they try to hold on to a spot in the postseason with just six games remaining.

My Three Stars:

#1 Ville Leino Flyers – Goal and an assist, was a threat on almost every shift.

#2 Brian Boucher Flyers – 32 saves on 33 shots, gave Flyers performance they have longed for since Leighton’s injury.

#3 Simon Gagne Flyers – Goal and an assist, led Flyers with 5 shots on goal.

Flying Notes:  James van Riemsdyk was scratched with what is being called a “lower body injury”.  JVR was hit on the inside of the left knee with a slapshot Saturday in Pittsburgh and struggled to get back to his skates.  He did take a few more shifts in the game but it was obvious it bothered him.  Riley Cote was inserted into the lineup, just his second game in the past 41 contests…the Flyers finished the regular season 5-1 against the Devils.  Strange because Philly finished 1-5 against the Penguins, but the Devils swept all six games against Pittsburgh…defenseman Ryan Parent was a healthy scratch…goaltender Carter Hutton dressed as Boucher’s backup.  He is the sixth netminder to suit up for the Orange-and-Black this season…Ian Laperriere fought David Clarkson in the first period for fight #201 of his career, and cut his finger on Clarkson’s helmet in the process.  ”Lappy” was still able to take his regular shift and actually saw some time on a power play late in the third.  He ended the night with an assist and three blocked shots, including a fearless dive in front of a Kovalchuk one-time power play bomb that deflected off of his right thigh and bounced into the crowd…Flyers skaters blocked 26 New Jersey shots…in a late third period shoving match with Clarkson, Daniel Carcillo was given a match penalty for “intent to injure” as his glove came up and clipped Clarkson, cutting him at the edge of his eye.  The penalty will be reviewed by the NHL’s Disciplinary board to see if any suspension will be levied against the rugged Flyer winger…the Flyers can be thankful that they are in the East, as the eighth slot in the West has 89 points.  The Orange-and-Black would almost certainly be facing a non-playoff season if they were in the West…it was another quiet night for Mike Richards.  The captain saw less than 17 minutes of ice time and didn’t register a shot on goal…New Jersey’s Zach Parise played in his 400th NHL game.

David Strehle
NHLHS Flyers Correspondent / NHL Writer
Twitter: @PhilaDAVEia