Devils Fall to Flyers in Battle of Special Teams

The first meeting this year between the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers was a study in quality versus quantity. The Devils may have had more power play opportunities on the evening, but the Flyers showed them that it is all in how you use it that gets you to the promised land. Philly won the game 5-3.

New Jersey had seven power play situations and converted on two of them while Philadelphia had just two power plays and were a perfect two-for-two. On the way, the Devils dropped their sixth straight.

It being the first meeting of the year between these two rivals, it was also the first ever meeting between 2017 first overall draft pick Nico Hischier and second overall pick Nolan Patrick. The head-to-head stats between these two very young stars read Nico with an assist, a shot on goal, an even plus/minus and one giveaway and one takeaway. Patrick had a minus-1 plus/minus, four penalty minutes and three shots on goal. Both have many battles ahead of them and both have room to develop in this rivalry.

The Devils had Drew Stafford back in at forward and scratched Jimmy Hayes, Stefan Noesen and defenseman Steven Santini. Of note for the Flyers, they were missing Shayne Gostisbehere due to illness. Defenseman Mirco Mueller practiced with New Jersey on Friday and should be returning to the lineup soon.

In goal, the Devils were back to Cory Schneider who stopped 20 of the 25 shots he faced, including four on the power play. In goal for Philly was Brian Elliott, who made 26 saves on 29 shots, including only seven shots on the power play – which was indicative of the anemic Devils power play. For Elliott, it was his 17th start in the Flyers’ last 18 games.

The Devils have 20 of their remaining 41 games against Metropolitan Division opponents, so here we go.

The Devils got on the board first when Jesper Bratt notched his 11th at 5:43 of the first period. It came when Hischier chipped the puck into the Flyers’ zone to Taylor Hall. Hall gave back to Nico at the bottom of the near faceoff circle. He found Bratt sneaking in behind the play and Bratt buried it to make it 1-0. Hischier and Hall had the assists.

Speaking of Taylor Hall, congratulations to him as it was announced that his Ontario Hockey League team, the Windsor Spitfires, would be retiring his number 4 on February 25, the day after Patrik Elias gets his number 26 retired here in New Jersey.

The Devils had the lead, but before the end of the first, Sean Couturier scored from Jordan Weal and Andrew MacDonald to tie things up at one. It was Couturier’s first of two goals on the night.

The Flyers had started getting into penalty trouble in the first period, taking three in the first. They took two early in the second and the Devils would finally capitalize on one. Patrick had taken his first of two consecutive high-sticking penalties and Kyle Palmieri made Philly pay. At 1:46, Brian Boyle won the offensive zone faceoff back to Will Butcher. Butcher slid it to Hall along the halfwall, who gave it back to Butcher at the point. Butcher then found Palmieri at the near faceoff dot for the one-timer. Palmieri pulled the trigger and beat Elliott cleanly to make it 2-1 Devils.

From there, the Flyers power play took over. On the game-tying goal, John Moore had been called for hooking, giving Philly the man advantage. Wayne Simmonds redirected a Claude Giroux shot on that one at 11:53. Jakub Voracek had the secondary assist.

The next power play was set up when Brian Gibbons went off for interference right off of a faceoff at 16:58. Couturier notched his second of the game from Giroux and Ivan Provorov at 18:16 to give Philly their first lead of the night, 3-2.

The Flyers’ Travis Konecny was called for slashing at 19:17 of the second period to give New Jersey 1:18 of power play time on fresh ice in the third. The Devils, however, true to form on the night, were not able to convert.

The Flyers actually scored another goal that could almost be considered a power play goal when Konecny scored at 4:28 of the third from Provorov and Couturier on a delayed penalty call against the Devils. He scored on a breakaway where he put his own rebound home to make it 4-2.

Michael Raffl wrapped up the Philadelphia massacre at 12:04 when he scored from Voracek and Valtteri Filppula to make it 5-2.

The Devils added a meaningless power play goal set up when Robert Hagg was called for tripping at 18:51. On the man advantage, John Moore hit the post and the puck bounced to Damon Severson’s stick. He got it along the near halfwall and fed Drew Stafford in the slot. Stafford put it home at 19:15 of the third to make it 5-3. And that would be your final.

Devils stat leaders saw Sami Vatanen rule ice time with 22:22, Miles Wood and Palmieri lead in shots with four apiece, Blake Coleman lead in hits with four and Hall, Boyle, Palmieri, Brian Gibbons, Wood, Marcus Johansson and Moore all tie with one blocked shot. Boyle and Coleman each had two takeaways to lead the team as well. The Devils won 49-percent of their faceoffs.

Next up, the Devils will face the team that sent them into their five day bye period: the Islanders. They will meet on Tuesday at Barclays Center with the Devils still looking for their first-ever win in Brooklyn in the three years the Isles have been there. We will find out then if the Devils can get off their slide and back on the winning track, making up some points in the tight Metro Division race.

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