It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are for either club, because when the Flyers come to North Jersey, it always seems to be a death struggle.
On Thursday night it was no different, as Scott Hartnell notched a pair of goals and Danny Briere tallied twice in the third period to give Philadelphia a 4-2 victory over New Jersey in the opener of a home-and-home series from Prudential Center.
Ville Leino notched a career-best three assists with Matt Carle chipping in two helpers for the Flyers, who have taken three of four and finished their five-game road trip at 3-2-0.
Brian Boucher improved to 9-4-2 on the year with an 18-save performance for Philly, which remained behind Pittsburgh by one point (56-55) for first place in the Atlantic Division and for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Dainius Zubrus and David Clarkson provided the offense for the Devils, who dropped their third straight and ninth in 10 outings.
Johan Hedberg allowed all four goals on 20 shots in defeat.
New Jersey lost without the services of its captain, Jamie Langenbrunner, who was a healthy scratch. Multiple reports during the contest indicated that the veteran forward waived his no-trade clause and is awaiting a deal.
Despite misfiring on an early power play, the visitors took a 3-2 advantage at 2:48 of the third period when Briere corralled a bouncing Leino pass and beat Hedberg with a wrister from the slot.
The visitors picked up an insurance tally with 8:26 remaining, when Briere’s attempted centering pass for Hartnell on the right wing deflected off the skate of Devils defenseman Colin White and rolled by Hedberg.
New Jersey went with an extra skater for the final 1:14 but failed to make a dent in its deficit.
In spite of a four-day layoff, the Flyers came out strongly from the opening faceoff, but squandered a pair of 2-on-1 chances in the first 90 seconds. Mike Richards missed the net high and wide on the first and Briere hit the crossbar on the second.
After a Philadelphia power play went by the wayside, the Devils notched the game’s first goal with 8:23 left in the first when Zubrus tipped in a right- point shot from Anton Volchenkov
Hedberg was quick to use the pokecheck later in the period to stop a James van Riemsdyk rush and it was a one-goal Devils edge at intermission.
Action between the teams was not limited to the ice, as sources cited by Anthony SanFilippo of the Delco Times indicated that Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was trying to track down Devils GM Lou Lamoriello to try and close a deal for Langenbrunner.
According to reports, earlier in the week the Devils asked the Flyers if they were interested in the two-time Stanley Cup winner, and Holmgren apparently offered two draft picks.
San Filippo cited another source later in the game, though, which revealed Langenbrunner will not be coming to Philadelphia.
Philly finally hit the scoreboard late in the second period thanks to a lucky bounce.
Hedberg left his net in an attempt to track down a dump-in from Leino, but the puck caromed back into the slot for Hartnell, who made no mistake on the backhand with 4:14 left.
The Devils were the beneficiary of a late review which gave them a 2-1 lead.
Clarkson broke in and lifted a shot that appeared to ring off the crossbar in the center of the net, but the puck returned to play too quickly to draw a whistle. Over a minute later once action was stopped, a review determined the disc struck the back brace of the net and the clock was rewound to 2:20 remaining.
Unbowed, Hartnell charged the crease and redirected a centering feed by Leino for a 2-2 tie with 66 seconds left in the second.
Notes: These clubs will square off in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon…Hartnell notched his second multi-goal game of the season and first since November 1 against Carolina…Briere leads Philly with 20 goals and picked up his first multi-goal effort since December 9 at Toronto…Prior to the game, the Flyers recalled defenseman Danny Syvret from Adirondack of the AHL…The Devils fell to 10-28-2 on the season, their worst record at the 40-game mark since going 8-30-2 in 1983-84…There has been just one Flyers hat trick against the Devils in franchise history, when Rick Tocchet tallied three times in a 7-1 win on November 20, 1988.