New Jersey native James van Riemsdyk knows and understands the Devils’ style.
“Defensively they don’t give up much,” he said. “Locking things up, really trapping things down, not giving you many free looks off the rush. You really have to work for every offensive chance that you get.”
The key to winning one of these contests is to get the lead for yourself and make them play as the aggressors, but that didn’t happen today as the Flyers fell early on thanks to an Ilya Kovalcuk power play goal. But the Flyers knew what they had to do, coming right back to tie it not even twenty seconds later as James van Riemsdyk crashed the crease and buried the puck past goaltender Johan Hedberg.
The Devils regained the lead later that period, though, and the Flyers were behind the eight ball entering the second. But from then on, the Flyers’ offense controlled the play on their way to a 5-3 final.
Instead of going straight at them, the Flyers got pucks in deep and chased, turning it into a race and battle for the loose puck. This let them get their offense started from behind a Devils’ defense that hadn’t had the opportunity to set up the way it should, giving the Flyers’ playmakers more looks and their shooters more open ice.
Claude Giroux knew this was what it would take to break through the trap.
“We found a way to crack it. We put the puck deep and tried to put pressure on them.”
In a second period completely dominated by the Flyers’ offense, Giroux found the lone goal coming off an offensive zone faceoff win that left the Devils scrambling following a series of blocked shots. Darroll Powe sent a puck off the post where it sat out front for Giroux to slam it into the empty net.
Tied going into the third, it wasn’t until Devils’ center Travis Zajac lost another faceoff cleanly in his own end that the Flyers found the back of the net. After Mike Richards won it back to Matt Carle, Chris Pronger wound up for a one timer that the Flyers’ captain got his stick on and tipped past Hedberg for the 3-2 lead.
Danny Briere extended the Flyers lead to 4-2, where the score held until the final minute when the Devils found themselves on a power play, pulled the goalie, and beat Sergei Bobrovsky to pull within a goal.
As the seconds ticked down, a loose puck in front of Bobrovsky bounced up in the air, and each team swatted at it. Mike Richards lucked out as his errant swing caught Devils’ captain Jamie Langenbrunner in the mouth, drawing blood. Normally resulting in a four minute double minor, the infraction wasn’t seen by the refs and the Flyers topped off their win with a Jeff Carter empty net goal.
This win was a big win for the Flyers, who had to come out of their three game skid before their Atlantic Division lead was usurped by the surging Pittsburgh Penguins, who have won eight games in a row now.
An important message was also sent today. During Wednesday’s shutout at the hands of Boston’s Tim Thomas, Peter Laviolette mixed and matched his lines in desperation. Today, he went back to the combinations that put the Flyers on top in the first place, and it worked, proving that this team has what it takes, so long as all the pieces come together like they did today.
“I believe that those units will score,” said Coach Laviolette. “I believe that we have the right people in the right places, and that it was more of a funk than anything else.”
Peter Laviolette knows this, knows his team, and knows that sometimes it just takes one good play or lucky bounce to get them rolling again.
Despite the win, the Flyers are still struggling mightily on the power play, scoring only twice in their last 41 opportunities. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong.
“It’s coming. Just wait until tomorrow,” said head coach Peter Laviolette. “Like I said I have confidence we’re going to score 5-on-5, we did tonight. I have confidence we’re going to score on the power play. We have the right people out there. Talented people.
“It’s like anything in sports, you go through a little bit of a stretch where you’re not getting the results that you want. You have to remain positive and confident in the fact that those players will score on the power play.”
However, this particular stretch is starting to get alarming. Power play struggles are becoming a theme of the Flyers’ season.
“It’s a work in progress,” defenseman Chris Pronger said after the game. “We’ve created a little bit more on the power play, but it’s still not flowing the way it needs to be. I think at the end of the day we’re probably thinking a little too much. It’s not coming second nature. We need to practice it a little bit more to get a little more comfortable….”
However, there will be no time for practice, at least not before their next contest. The Flyers will have to adjust on the fly and try to snap that abysmal 2-41 stat when they skate at Long Island tomorrow night.
Shay Roddy contributed to this report.