Devils pounce on Flyers early, win easy
The devastation the Devils wrought on the Flyers was as quick as it was thorough.
The Devils scored three goals in the first period and cruised to a 5-2 win over the Flyers Wednesday night at the Prudential Center.
Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique and Ilya Kovalchuk scored in the opening 20 minutes for the Devils, who have won three of their last four games.
“We haven’t had many games like that in the last two months,” Devils head coach Pete DeBoer said. “Nice change.”
Andrei Loktionov (6:31 of the second period) and Henrique (1:16 of the third period) added markers in the final 40 minutes. Nine Devils finished with at least one point and 13 Devils were plus-1 or better. Johan Hedberg stopped 23-of-25 shots.
Elias began the rout just 2:02 into the match with his ninth goal. Stationed behind the net, Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros’s clearing pass was intercepted by Steve Bernier. Bernier fired a shot on goal that Ilya Bryzgalov (27 saves) stopped, but he could not control the rebound and Henrique set up Elias for the goalmouth backhander with a gorgeous, no-look between-the-legs pass.
“[I] just tried to get it back to the net and Patty [made a good play],” Henrique said.
Added Elias: “[I] just popped out to the [slot and the puck] came to me there.”
The Flyers have lost four of their last five games. Jacob Voracek’s power play goal 9:45 into the first evened the match between the Atlantic Division rivals at 1-1. Voracek later assisted on Scott Hartnell’s goal at 16:08 into the third.
It took Henrique just 39 seconds to break the deadlock. The second-year center drove to the net and Elias’s point shot ricocheted off him and Matt Read past Bryzgalov to give the Devils a 2-1 lead.
“It nice,” Henrique said of the early outburst. “I thought the entire team played well tonight. [It’s a] huge win for us.”
Kovalchuk’s NHL-leading fourth shorthanded goal of the season increased the lead to 3-1. Stephen Gionta forced a turnover in the defensive zone and banked the puck off the boards to spring Kovalchuk. The left wing raced up the boards and ripped a drive that beat Bryzgalov high to the glove side.
“Lucky bounce for us,” Kovalchuk said. “Decided to shoot short side.”
Loktionov pushed the advantage to 4-1 at 6:31 into the second period. Loktionov broke in on a two-on-one with Alexei Ponikarovsky and toe-dragged Braydon Coburn out of the play before beating Bryzgalov high for his fourth goal as a Devil.
“[I] tried to pull it back and then I shot it,” Loktionov said.
Henrique’s potted his second goal of the game 1:16 into the third with a power play backhander. The Devils were 1-for-6 on the man advantage and killed three of the Flyers’ four power plays.
The Devils lost Elias and Krystofer Barch on the same play early in the third period. Elias was hooked and went feet first into the end boards while Danny Briere slammed Barch into the corner boards. Both went to the locker room, but said they were fine.
“I’ve been hit harder with a fist,” Barch said. “He apologized.”
Even with the win, the Devils are seventh in the East despite having the same number of points (31) as the Maple Leafs. Toronto (15-11-1) has won two more games than the Devils (13-9-5).
But the Devils believe the way they are playing puts them in position to solidify a playoff spot.
“We’re a confident group,” Henrique said. “[It’s] nice anytime you can get a streak going.”
The teams will conclude the home-and-home Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.