Clarkson Caps Off Devils’ Comeback, Flyers Lose 5-3 in Jersey

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The Philadelphia Flyers learned tonight that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, as they blew a two-goal lead to lose 5-3 to the New Jersey Devils tonight on the road. David Clarkson provided the game-winner for the hosts halfway through the third period, as the Devils scored four unanswered goals to win for the fifth time in their last six games. Ilya Kovalchuk recorded three assists, while Patrik Elias had a goal and two assists in the win. Martin Brodeur stopped 25 of Philly’s 28 shots and added on an assist, as Ilya Bryzgalov denied 14 of Jersey’s 18 shots.

Claude Giroux led Philadelphia with two points tonight, as he had helpers on Wayne Simmonds’ power-play tally and Matt Read’s strike in the first period. Mike Knuble potted his second of the 2013 season, as the Flyers missed out on pivotal points in the standings.

After New Jersey scored two goals in the middle stanza to enter the third period in a 3-3 tie, Clarkson beat Bryzgalov with 9:17 left in regulation.

Read attempted to clear the puck from the corner to the left of Bryzgalov, but Adam Larsson leaped into the air to catch the puck and keep it in the Devils’ offensive zone. The blue liner then wristed a shot from the point that Clarkson redirected past Bryzgalov’s glove, as the goaltender attempted to move left-to-right in his crease.

The Flyers couldn’t find an equalizer, as Steve Bernier put home an empty-netter with 1:36 left to put Jersey up by two.

If the Orange and Black had kept up their tempo and production from the first 20 minutes, they could have easily walked out of New Jersey with two points against a team that has only lost twice in regulation this season. However, they seemed to stop playing with 40 minutes left in the contest.

“I don’t think they had but one scoring chance except the goal they scored on in the third period,” Peter Laviolette said after the loss. “But, saying that, we only generated a few more than that. The first period we were on the attack, but in the second and third, not quite as much.”

To start the game, Philly fell into a similar problem they experienced in the clubs’ first meeting this season.

It took all of 40 seconds for Travis Zajac, who scored 67 seconds into the Flyers’ 3-0 loss to the Devils on January 22nd, to beat Bryzgalov for a 1-0 lead.

“It’s unacceptable,” Laviolette stated after the game about New Jersey’s goals in the first minute of both the first and second period. “They come off of turnovers. You have to take care of the puck and make decisions, and be in the right spots defensively and defend the rush properly. These are things we continue to harp on.”

After the puck was in the Devils’ zone for the beginning sequence of the game, Simmonds turned the puck over to start a rush led by Kovalchuk in the other direction. As he entered the Flyers’ zone, Kovalchuk started to skate towards the top of slot before he fed pass to Zajac at the top of the circle to Bryzgalov’s right. With a wrist shot, Zajac beat Bryz with an attempt that went between the goalie’s right hip and arm for his third goal of 2013.

Despite handing New Jersey another early lead at the Prudential Center, the Flyers answered back with three goals of their own in a 2:36 span in the middle of the opening period.

The three-goal response started while Marek Zidlicky was in the box for hooking. A Brayden Schenn shot in the slot hit Simmonds, who was in front of Brodeur, before the puck traveled into the corner where Jakub Voracek recovered it and threw a pass to Kimmo Timonen at the point. Timonen slid the puck over to Giroux at the dot to Brodeur’s right before the captain quickly moved it to Schenn in the same spot he was for his prior shot.

Schenn, who had his shot altered by a Jacob Josefson poke check, had his flubbed shot turn into an ideal pass, as the biscuit glided along the ice to Simmonds’ forehand just outside the crease. As the power forward switched possession of the puck from his forehand to his backhand, he produced a backhander that went between Brodeur’s pads and found the back of the cage after it was banked in off of the goalie’s left leg pad.

Simmonds’ fourth of the season was followed up with Knuble’s second of 2013 1:48 later for the Flyers’ first lead of the night.

The line of Danny Briere, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Knuble were pressuring the Devils in their own zone before Kurtis Foster wrapped the puck around the boards to Fedotenko in the corner to Brodeur’s right. Rusty found Knuble in the high slot for a wrist shot that beat Brodeur’s glove hand to put the Devils down a goal at home.

Only 48 seconds later, Read capitalized on an Anton Volchenkov turnover in the Devils’ zone for a quick tally to put his squad up by two.

After the Devils blocked a shot in their own zone, Volchenkov was the first to the loose disc and attempted to throw it to a forward leaving the zone, but instead found Giroux’s backhand in the middle of the circle to Brodeur’s left. Giroux quickly found Read in the other circle for a one-timer that beat Brodeur before the goalie could reach the near post in time.

Philly held on to the two-goal lead to end the first stanza, despite the fact Jersey outshot the visitors 4-3 in the final 7:57 of the period.

Another first-minute goal in the tilt cut the Flyers’ lead to one, as Alexei Ponikarovsky potted his first since his return to the Devils only 26 seconds into the second period.

As the Flyers dumped the puck into the Devils’ zone, the puck found its way to Brodeur’s crease. The veteran goalie controlled the puck then launched a pass to Kovalchuk at the red line, who then circled into the Flyers’ zone before he passed it to Ponikarovsky, which resulted in a wide-open wrister from just inside the circle to Bryzgalov’s right. The former Winnipeg Jet beat Bryzgalov high blocker side to make it a one-goal game.

With under five minutes left in the middle frame, Elias scored from the middle of the slot to send the game into the third period knotted at three.

Kovalchuk gained advantage of the biscuit in the corner after a battle along the boards and tossed it to Elias at the top of the circles. Elias released a wrister on Bryzgalov that beat the goaltender five-hole and slowly glided over the goal line to tie the contest with 4:20 left in the period.

Thanks to the Devils scoring on two of their three shots in the third period, the Flyers fell to 1-2-0 on their current road trip.

As they have had to often in this shortened season, the Orange and Black will have to recover from this loss quickly, as they travel to the Bell Centre for their first match of 2013 against the Montreal Canadiens.

Notes: Dating back to Game 2 of last season’s ECSF, the Flyers have lost six straight games to the Devils. They Devils have outscored the Flyers 23-10 over that span…Simmonds’ goal in the first ended Brodeur’s shutout streak against the Flyers at 122:09. The last goal Philadelphia scored on Brodeur came 7:18 into the first period of Game 5 of last year’s ECSF from Max Talbot. Brodeur registered a shutout against the Flyers on January 22nd…Timonen left the game with a lower-body injury. He had two PIMs and a minus-1 rating in 11:24 TOI…Sean Couturier had 12:07 TOI in his first game back after missing two contests with the flu…With his goal tonight, Read has three goals in Philly’s last five games…Tonight marked the first time this season the Flyers have blown a two-goal lead for a loss. The last time they blew a two-goal lead to lose in regulation during a regular season game came on January 8th, 2012, when they allowed four goals in the third period to lose 6-4 to the Ottawa Senators after leading 4-2 after 40 minutes…With the addition of tonight’s loss, the Flyers have been outscored 7-17 in the third period this year…Ponikarovsky played two consecutive games against the Flyers, as his last game with the Jets came on Tuesday against Philly. He was minus-1 on Tuesday, while he had a goal and a plus-1 rating tonight…The Flyers are 0-2-0 against the Devils in 2013 and are 1-4-0 against the Atlantic Division this season (NJD 0-2-0, PIT 0-1-0, NYR 1-1-0, NYI 0-0-0).