Devils down Flyers in Overtime to Stay in Playoff Race

Coming off of an emotional Martin Brodeur Night at The Rock on Tuesday, the New Jersey Devils would have three off days and then travel down to Philadelphia to play a Flyers team that is right on their tails in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.

The Devils would get exactly what they needed in the form of their seventh overtime win of the season.

Some roster issues for the Devils included Eric Gelinas, Tuomo Ruutu and Stefan Matteau sitting for New Jersey again. Matteau took a puck to the face at practice yesterday and suffered some fractures to bones in that area. He will need a full face shield should he play again during his time with this injury. It has to be a frustrating time for Matteau, who has not played much since January and this injury just compounds that frustration for him.

Of note for the Flyers’ scratches was Matt Read in addition to Scott Laughton and Evgeny Medvedev. Read handed the Devils their only overtime loss back in December at Prudential Center, but would not be available for Philly today.

The starting goaltenders were Cory Schneider for the Devils and Michal Neuvirth for Philadelphia. Cory was brilliant again, in being named the third star of the game; he made 31 saves on 32 Flyers shots. The New Jersey netminder kept the Devils in the game at times and helped them weather the storm of some sustained Flyer pressure at various points.

Neuvirth made 22 saves on 24 Devils shots. He also played pretty well and made the game very interesting, coming up big for Philly when he needed to.

The Devils got the scoring kicked off when Nick Schultz of the Flyers took an interference call against Bobby Farnham at 6:01 of the first period. The Devils went on the power play, as special teams would become somewhat of a theme on the night.

At 6:43, Jacob Josefson took a shot from the near faceoff dot in the Flyers’ zone. Philly failed to clear the puck, as Travis Zajac kept it in in the slot. His shot was gathered by Joseph Blandisi, who scored a goal by shooting the puck between his legs, beating Neuvirth on the short side. It was a very nice goal and highlighted the “special skill set” as John MacLean would call it on the MSG+ postgame show. It was 1-0 Devils.

And that is the way it would remain. The Flyers got off only two shots in the first period, but reversed course in the second. The entire second period was essentially sustained Flyer pressure. The Flyers had eight of the nine scoring chances at one point and quickly evened the shot total, then surpassed it. But New Jersey was able to weather that rough patch due to Cory Schneider, mostly.

In the third, just 36 seconds in, the Flyers immediately went on the power play for four minutes when Sergey Kalinin was called for a high sticking double minor against Flyers captain Claude Giroux. Giroux left the ice briefly, and Philly seemed to be set. But then, about 30 seconds into the power play, as Philly was regrouping in the neutral zone and bringing the puck back in, Wayne Simmonds was called for interference against Stephen Gionta. It was a questionable call at best, but the Devils would take it. The Flyers are the most penalized team in the NHL and perhaps that played a part in some of the calls that went the Devils’ way this afternoon.

So, with the teams now playing 4-on-4, there would be some open ice. That would pass and the Flyers would go on an abbreviated power play.

They would capitalize in a record setting way.

At 3:49 of the third, Shayne Gostisbehere tied it off an assist from Giroux. For Gostisbehere, it was another point in his first 11 games. The first time a rookie has done that since Barry Beck of the Colorado Rockies in 1977-78.

So the game was tied and would get a little bit chippy as well. After Bobby Farnham clipped Neuvirth after a whistle, Radko Gudas took exception and they would both go off with coincidental roughing minors at 18:00. Penalties would continue to play a factor in the game.

After regulation ended tied, we were headed off to overtime. The Devils have excelled this season in the extra session, going 6-1 in OT coming into this afternoon. The lone loss? To the Flyers back in December when Matt Read scored the winner at The Rock.

The overtime period was your typical back-and-forth affair, as has become common in the new three-on-three format. Both goalies kept their teams in it, making big saves when they needed to. But when Andy Greene had a scoring chance for the Devils 2:31 into the OT period, the Flyers’ Jakub Voracek hauled him down with a hooking call and the Devils would go on the power play in overtime.

Coach John Hynes quickly called his timeout, drawing up a play for the Devils with the extra man. Kyle Palmieri would start from the point, sending it down low to Adam Henrique, who gave it back to John Moore back at the point. Moore sent it back to Henrique at the bottom of the far faceoff circle, who sniped one past Neuvirth and gave the Devils the victory.

The Devils had come away with two precious points that will serve them well as the playoff race gets tighter and tighter.

Next up, the Devils return home to Prudential Center to face the Los Angeles Kings in a 12:30 PM Valentine’s Day matinee. The Kings lead the Pacific Division and will give the Devils a huge test. Steve Cangialosi mentioned in the postgame show that Jonathan Quick is not available for LA, so we will see who gets the start for the Kings. Coming off of their thrilling victory over the Rangers the other night, LA should be up for this one. Hopefully the Devils can keep pace.

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