The Philadelphia Flyers have not fared well in their last few trips to the Prudential Center as the Devils have owned the rivalry on home ice of late. But tonight, the two teams met up and it was Philly who came out the victor, doubling up New Jersey 6-3.
Before we begin, some injury news to get to. Despite the horrific-looking nature of Mirco Mueller’s injury, he suffered only an injured left shoulder. There were no head or neck injuries, thankfully and no concussion. That is very reassuring as Mueller took quite the spill into the boards and it could have been a lot worse than it was. In addition to that, Taylor Hall, the team announced, had successful arthroscopic surgery on his left knee yesterday. He will start rehab. This is more good news as the nature of Hall’s injury had been a mystery for some time. It remains to be seen if he will play again this season, but he is starting rehab, so we will see.
In other injury-related roster news, Jesper Bratt returned tonight after missing the last two games with a lower body injury. Bratt played on the top line with Nico Hischier and Drew Stafford. Egor Yakovlev, who played forward last game, was back on defense, on the third pairing with Connor Carrick.
In net, the Flyers made some dubious NHL history tonight. Cam Talbot, recently acquired in a trade with the Oilers, became the eighth starting goalie for Philly this season. That is a NHL record for number starting goalies in a season. Talbot made 30 saves on 33 shots against for a .909 save percentage. Cory Schneider went for the Devils, stopping 18-of-23 for a .783 save percentage.
Special teams saw the Flyers go 1-for-3 with four power play shots and one shorthanded shot. The Devils had an excellent kill early in the game when Kurtis Gabriel took a five minute major for boarding Nolan Patrick (much more on that situation later). In that five minute span, the Devils limited Philly to just two shots and had a few shorthanded chances as well. The Devils ended the night 0-for-1 on the power play with a single power play shot and four shorthanded shots.
The Devils were wearing their heritage white, green and red uniforms for the fourth and final time this season and the Flyers were in their black Stadium Series uniforms (minus the crazy helmets, however).
James van Riemsdyk scored the first two goals of the game to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead by the end of the first period. His first came on the power play – set up by Stafford taking a slashing penalty immediately following the Devils’ five minute kill. On that goal, the Flyers took the puck in the neutral zone and Claude Giroux made a nice backhand saucer pass off the entry to van Riemsdyk. He then fired a rocket by Cory to make it 1-0. That one came at 12:53 and Jakub Voracek had the secondary assist.
Two minutes and twenty-five seconds later, the Middletown, New Jersey native struck again. This time, Schneider was trying to settle the puck by the side of his net, but Ryan Hartman stole it and made a nice backhand, no-look pass to van Riemsdyk as Cory was caught going side-to-side through his crease. That made it 2-0 Philadelphia and put the Devils behind the eight-ball going into the second period.
And they would fight back. At 4:25 into the period, Kenny Agostino came up the left wing boards and let a shot go off the rush. Talbot got the initial shot, but could not control the rebound. Damon Severson jumped up into the play and buried the rebound to cut the Flyers’ lead in half 2-1. Travis Zajac had the secondary assist, which moved him past Bruce Driver on the Devils’ all-time assist leaders board.
At the 8:49 mark of the second period, Jesper Bratt made his first imprint on the game. Hischier gave to Severson at the top of the far faceoff circle and he shot with Bratt jumping on the rebound and scoring. The Devils had made things all level.
Then the wheels began to fall off. With 30 seconds remaining in the second period, Cory tried to redirect a Flyers dump in to the near corner and instead, it bounced off of Travis Konecny’s skate and hit Kevin Rooney, going in behind Schneider. It was a freakish goal that was credited to Konecny unassisted and put Philly up for good, 3-2.
After letting in that goal with just 30 seconds left in the second frame, the Devils kicked off the third by giving one up just 27 seconds in. Sean Couturier was able to cut through the middle of the ice and fire free on Cory, beating him to make it 4-2. Giroux and Voracek had the assists on that one as the Flyers regained the two goal lead that they had lost in the second.
Ivan Provorov put them up by three at the 6:33 mark when he redirected a Travis Sanheim wrist shot from the point by Schneider to make it 5-2. Voracek had an assist on this one as well.
Then, well, remember that boarding hit from behind penalty that Gabriel took against Nolan Patrick earlier in the game? Well, Patrick decided that he was going to get his pound of flesh when, midway through the third period, he gave a nice elbow to Gabriel behind the play as he was passing him. It was a clear interference call that was missed by referees Francis Charron and Brandon Schrader (who was officiating his very first NHL game, to be completely fair) and resulted in Gabriel going off for concussion protocol. But not before Gabriel essentially mugged Scott Laughton looking for his retribution. That whole play came at the 7:39 mark.
At the 9:57 mark, all hell broke loose as Severson, in response to Patrick’s interference on Gabriel, went after Patrick and Sami Vatanen roughed up Konecny. In the end, Vatanen, Severson and Patrick each went off for roughing while Konecny was nabbed for a cross check. None of this happens if Patrick either A) does not retaliate for a play that Gabriel already served a five minute major penalty for or B) the officials call the interference penalty against Patrick. It is not a matter of the Devils getting a power play, because the game was likely over at that point anyway. It was more that the officials have to keep order in the game and protect the players from killing each other on plays like Patrick’s. Hockey is a dangerous sport and must be played with some control. Patrick will likely be facing a suspension for the interference, but the officials (and this is easier said than done from me) need to keep control in these situations or someone is going to get hurt badly.
Anyway, the Devils would pull Cory with just under five minutes left in the game and Konecny would score into the empty net. That goal came at 16:12 and van Riemsdyk had the primary assist for his third point of the game (he would be named the game’s first star – Voracek the second and Giroux the third) and Laughton had the secondary.
The Devils would add a late goal to make it 6-3 when Bratt found a cutting Kevin Rooney coming in backdoor and he scored at 17:48. Damon Severson had the secondary assist as he had a hand in all three Devils goals.
In the end, the Devils out shot Philly 33-24 (the Flyers had the empty net goal), won 67-percent of the game’s faceoffs, out hit the Flyers 21-17 but blocked less shots (11-8) and had more giveaways at eight to the Flyers four.
Individually, Vatanen led everyone with 24:24 time on ice (30 seconds on the power play and 5:02 shorthanded) while Blake Coleman led the forwards with 19:49 (including 4:37 on the PK). Coleman also led the team in shots on goal with five and co-led in hits with four along with Nathan Bastian. Severson, in addition to his great offensive night, also led the team in blocked shots with two. SIx players had one takeaway to lead there (Stafford, Zajac, Coleman, Blake Pietila, Rooney and Bratt).
Next up, the Devils and their MASH unit travel up to Boston to take on old friend Marcus Johansson and the Bruins tomorrow night. We will have that one for you right here and, of course, appreciate any comments left below in the meantime.