Scott Hartnell recorded a pair of power-play goals, and his second was the game-winning goal for Philly in their bittersweet 4-1 decision over the Devils in New Jersey on Saturday afternoon.
Wayne Simmonds posted his first three-point game in the NHL and Claude Giroux had a pair of assists, while Ilya Bryzgalov came up with his second strong performance, stopping 30-of-31 shots.
The news got a little darker in the post-game, when GM Paul Holmgren revealed that Danny Briere suffered a concussion on an unknown play and will be out indefinitely.
“I’m not too good right now,” Briere said in a post-game text. “I don’t even know what happened.”
Before that shocking nugget, Jaromir Jagr left the game after the first period and didn’t come back with what the club termed a “lower-body injury.”
Alexei Ponikarovsky made a mark in his first game with Jersey after being acquired Friday from Carolina, but his sole marker wasn’t enough to help Martin Brodeur, who allowed three goals on only 19 shots.
Philly’s top line showed some jump to start the game, but they couldn’t muster too much offensive pressure as both teams only managed one shot in the first few minutes of the game.
To get both teams going, Jody Shelley dropped the gloves with Eric Boulton just after the five-minute mark. The bout was even until Boulton got the better of Shelley near the end of the fight, landing a few punches and taking Shelley down to the ice.
While Hartnell nearly caught Brodeur out of position with a shot along the goal line, Zac Rinaldo slashed Clarkson behind the play for a trip to the box.
The Devils power-play unit didn’t get too much time to work with, as Clarkson dropped a shoulder into Matt Read before the two went for a puck in the corner to earn an interference minor. The penalty resulted in four-on-four action for 1:25.
After neither team utilized the four-on-four to their advantage, Adam Henrique released a heavy shot from the slot during Philly’s man advantage. Bryzgalov blocked the shorthanded attempt into the corner for the only chance for either team during Philly’s shortened power play.
As the teams enjoyed 5-on-5 action for a bit, Briere sent the Devils’ power play back to the ice, as he elbowed Brodeur. While the Flyers were cycling the puck, Briere skated by the crease and had his elbow hit the back of Brodeur’s head.
During the Devils’ man advantage, both teams had scoring chances that almost resulted in the game’s first goal.
The first came on a shorthanded odd-man rush for Philly led by Max Talbot. Carrying the puck into the Devils’ zone, Talbot held on to the puck until he was in the middle of the circle furthest from the benches, where he passed it cross ice to Braydon Coburn. The defenseman released a good, hard shot low that forced Brodeur to stack his pads while sliding across the crease to keep the puck out of the net. Although the puck was loose after the save, the New Jersey defense was able to clear the puck to safety.
Shortly after Coburn’s shot, Bryzgalov made an amazing leg save on a weird bounce in front. After a Kovalchuk shot from the point, the puck bounced off Henrique, who was at the side of the net. With his body centered towards the shot from the point, Bryzgalov managed to stick out his left leg pad back far enough to deny the redirection before the net was knocked off its pegs. The save was Bryzgalov’s best of the game.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that neither team scored in the first period, and the Devils racked up a whopping 9-4 edge in shots.
To open the second period, the Devils applied enough offensive pressure to force Peter Laviolette to call a timeout. A Ryan Carter shot from the boards forced Bryzgalov into an awkward save and cover-up. The following faceoff saw Kovalchuk rifle a shot through traffic immediately after the puck was dropped before the Devils cycled in the zone. After a long awaited whistle, Laviolette finally applied the brakes.
The timeout worked, as the Flyers started to dictate the pace of the game and eventually planted the game’s first goal.
Read may have scored it at the 9 1/2-minute mark, but Simmonds deserved a lot of the credit. After badgering Kurtis Foster in the slot, Simmonds won another battle in the corner for the puck before he centered a pass back to the slot for Read. The rookie put home his 15th of the season high on Brodeur’s glove-side as the veteran netminder was dropping to the ice.
Shortly after Read’s goal, Coburn was called for high-sticking Boulton at the Flyers’ blue line. After the Flyers killed off Coburn’s minor, they extended their lead with a power-play goal from Hartnell.
With Adam Larsson being sent to the box 12 seconds after Coburn exited, Hartnell deflected a Kimmo Timonen shot from the point past Brodeur for a Flyers’ 2-0 lead 13:04 into the period. After originally being awarded to both Timonen and Simmonds, Hartnell was eventually and correctly given his 21st goal of the season.
That lead lasted all of 28 seconds, before Ponikarovsky tipped home a Matt Taormina shot past Bryzgalov.
Skating through the slot, Ponikarovsky altered the point blast, which was aimed towards Bryzgalov’s five-hole, towards the far post. Bryzgalov, who had already dropped to his pads to prepare for the original shot, was unable to make a save on Ponikarovsky’s redirection.
Taormina took part in another crucial play minutes later, as the defenseman embellished a play with Simmonds to draw a high-sticking minor.
The Devils didn’t do too much with the man advantage, as Kovalchuk and Dainius Zubrus each had a shot denied by Bryzgalov.
Philly left the second period with a 2-1 advantage, but it didn’t come without confrontation. After boarding Anton Volchenkov in the Devils’ zone, Hartnell started a scrum in the neutral zone. After the pushing and shoving died down, both Hartnell and Zubrus earned roughing minors.
Early in the third period, Brodeur robbed Simmonds to keep it a one-goal game. Simmonds faked a forehand shot before going to his backhand, which made Brodeur slide out of position. But the cagey vet threw his glove over his head while rolling on his back in the crease to make the unbelievable save.
Minutes later, Kovalchuk threw the puck over the glass in the Devils’ zone for a delaying game minor. While the puck was flying over the glass, Briere was checked from behind. It was the most likely culprit for the grim post-game news.
With their fourth man advantage of the game, the Flyers potted their second power-play of the game with a Hartnell blast from the slot.
As Giroux held the puck in the corner furthest from the benches in the Devils’ zone, he completed a no-look pass to Hartnell in the slot. Scoring his second power-play goal of the game, Hartnell one-timed Giroux’s pass over Brodeur’s left shoulder to give the Flyers’ a two-goal lead with 11:53 left.
In a move borne of desperation, Brodeur was called to the bench with 2:52 remaining.
The plan backfired, as Simmonds raced by Kovalchuk in the neutral zone to force Foster in a pressured clear. Stopping Foster’s clear attempt, Simmonds backhanded a shot from the blue line into the empty net to cap off the Flyers’ 4-1 win in New Jersey.
Simmonds and Hartnell both played great for the Flyers today. Simmonds deserved the empty-net goal after he showed great heart and hustle on Read’s goal to give the Flyers their first lead of the day. Hartnell, in addition to his pair of goals, was able to do his usual job of agitating the opponents with his play at the end of the second period.
The Flyers hope to carry the momentum from today’s victory into their match-up tomorrow against the Boston Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.
Notes: The Flyers have earned five out of the possible six points against the Devils this season…Read extended his point streak to five games and his goal streak to two games with his goal in the second period. He has two goals and four assists on his point streak…Saturday was Bryzgalov’s seventh game of the season where he allowed one goal or less…Giroux had his first multi-point game today since he had a pair of assists against the Blackhawks back on January 5…Giroux won 60 percent (15 of 25) of his faceoffs today for his sixth straight game where he has won 50 percent or more…Hartnell, who tallied his 24th career multi-goal effort, is on pace for 39 goals this season, which would crush his previous best of 30 from the 2008-2009 regular season…Shelley’s fight in the first period puts him at 1,496 PIMs in his career…The Flyers’ lowest shot total this season was 15 in their 2-1 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on November 9…Read’s goal was his 15th of the season, which added to his league lead for goals amongst rookies. Now with 31 points, he is four off from the overall lead in scoring amongst rookies…Including their win today, the Flyers have been out shot in three of their games this month. They are 2-1-0 in those games (6-4 loss to Senators on 1/8, 3-2 win over Islanders on 1/12)…The Flyers improved to 2-0-1 against the Devils and to 6-4-1 (NYR 0-3-0, NJD 2-0-1, PIT 2-0-0, NYI 2-1-0) against the rest of the Atlantic Division this season…The Flyers improved to 28-14-4. They were 30-11-5 after 46 games last season.