The Flyers shot themselves in the foot today, letting a bruised and battered New Jersey Devils offense – ranked dead last in the league – get the better of them early.
The Devils were missing all over their roster, from Martin Brodeur to Patrick Elias, Jamie Langebrunner, and Matt Corrente. The scratch to Patrick Elias was apparently a last minute decision, and not due to injury, but rather personal reasons. This left the Devils with 17 skaters, once again operating under the usual league minimum of 18.
For the first few minutes of the game, the Flyers’ passes were sloppy, their breakout disorganized, and their defense underwhelming. It wasn’t long until the Devils made them pay as Adam Mair, following another neutral zone turnover, fired the puck past Brian Boucher to put the Devils on top.
Falling behind to such a seemingly inferior team may have woken the Flyers up, with the offense building up momentum as the first period carried on. This reached a head in the second period. Shift after shift, the Flyers swarmed the Devils’ zone, moving the puck and generating chances. But shift after shift, goaltender Johan Hedburg turned their shots away. Through the last two periods and subsequent overtime – during which the Flyers outshot the Devils 31 to 14 – Hedberg stopped 30 shots.
One Philadelphia chance sneaked through, coming on the power play and snapping their three game scoreless streak with the man advantage. With Hartnell fighting in front, Danny Briere found the puck alongside the net and bounced it off Hedberg’s back and in to tie the game with just over half of a period left to play.
While the Devils were mostly outplayed, Brian Boucher held strong throughout, stopping some high quality, point blank chances – especially during the early minutes when the Devils dominated play. Without him, the score would have been more lopsided early on, and the Flyers may have had an even tougher time coming back.
Despite an exciting, offense-filled over time period, neither team was able to get a goal, and for the second straight day, the Flyers went to a shootout.
Claude Giroux led it off, seemingly trying the same move he beat Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff with last night. Hedberg must have been watching, as he followed Giroux the whole way and shut it down. Two Brian Boucher saves and a Hedberg stop later, Nikolay Zherdev got his first chance in a Flyers’ shootout, making it count as he caught Hedberg unprepared and beat him with a wrist shot from twenty feet out.
But the Devils scored in back-to-back opportunities off the sticks of Jason Arnott and Travis Zajac to put the Flyers away in a 2-1 shootout win.
After three wins in a row – including wins over division leaders Montreal and Washington – the Flyers have lost to Calgary and New Jersey, both 14th in their respective conferences. Both came in, determined to beat the Flyers, and gave the orange and black quite a run for their money. In each game, the Flyers had chances to put it away – from Friday’s controversial over time call to all the times they swarmed the Devils net on Saturday. But in the end, they weren’t able to put it away.
The Flyers shouldn’t dwell on the result of this loss, though. The process was there, and mostly every game, this kind of play will earn the team a win – sometimes the bounces just don’t go their way. If they don’t worry too much and don’t clench their sticks too tight, they’ll get the goals they need. Just keep working.