Winless in their last five games and watching their playoff hopes, once assumed to be secure, slip away, the Flyers were in desperate need of two points last night when their cross-river rivals, the New Jersey Devils, came to town.
Philadelphia had managed a 4-1 record against the Devils this season as part of a rock, paper, scissors battle between them and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Atlantic Division. They hoped to continue that success, despite the reworking of their roster at the hands of injury, missing Jeff Carter, Michael Leighton, and newly added James van Riemsdyk, out after taking a hard shot to the inside of his knee in the Flyers’ recent loss to the Penguins.
The Flyers started a definitive energy line, and it paid off. Darroll Powe centering Scott Hartnell and Arron Asham hooked up on part of the game’s first goal as Asham and Hartnell fed defenseman Matt Carle for a shot past the screen of Darroll Powe for a 1-0 lead less than a minute into the game.
The Flyers extended the lead to two after Ville Leino scored only his second goal as a Flyer by burying a Danny Briere cross-crease attempt.
The latter half of the first, thanks to a stint on the penalty kill, saw the Flyers slow down the attack and almost allow the Devils some life. However, any hopes of that were dashed away early in the second as Kimmo Timonen, the game’s first star, blasted a shot past Martin Brodeur for a 3-0 lead.
The second period was marred by more penalties as the Devils outshot the Flyers 14-7, but Brian Boucher held tight on one of his toughest saves of the night, a breakaway stop against Patrick Elias. Moments later, the Flyers turned up ice and made their chance count as Lukas Krajicek put one over the shoulder of Brodeur to take the lead by four.
At the start of the third, Martin Brodeur had been replaced by backup Yann Danis. The Flyers seemed to settle with their lead as the Devils surged, continuing to outshoot them and finally netting a goal off an Ilya Kovalchuk one timer. However, this did nothing but awaken them as Simon Gagne put home the feed by Ville Leino thirty seconds later to make the score 5-1.
The game ended with plenty of the rough stuff as punches were exchanged. Dan Carcillo was given a questionable match penalty as his stick caught the face of Bryce Salvador during the pre fight exchange of blows. The call implied intent to injure, which made little sense given the situation.
Either way, with their first win in ten days and five games, the Flyers may be back on track to win the games they need down this home stretch and take back control of their playoff hopes.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Ville Leino: In and out of the lineup since being acquired in a trade from Detroit, Leino has made some plays, but rarely been a part of the scoring. Last night he picked up a goal and an assist, as well as several other quality scoring chances, as his line with Simon Gagne and Danny Briere clicked right off the bat.
Brian Boucher: He could have let his confidence be shaken by the decision not to start him against the Penguins on Saturday, but Boucher took it as a challenge and stepped up his game accordingly, stopping some tough ones on his way to 32 saves.
Ian Laperriere: Ever the fan favorite, Laperriere was seen on the ice for nearly half of the second period as the Flyers struggled to kill off four consecutive penalties. Before the period was over, they had blocked more than 20 shots as a team, many of them coming off his body. It’s this grind it out attitude of his that had earned him a spot on the roster every night.