The Devils renewed their rivalry with the Philadelphia Flyers just three days after defeating them at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday. That was a tight, defensive game that ended in overtime with a New Jersey win. The game played tonight at Prudential Center would be nothing of the sort.
It was Retro Night at The Rock as the Devils would throw it back to the 1980s and wear their green and red jerseys. The problem was, it seemed at times like the 1982 Devils showed up and not the 2016 Devils.
Getting in the spirit of the retro theme, goalies Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid had special red and green masks with Devils legends painted into them. The Devils looked sharp in their throwbacks, unfortunately the Flyers did not join in on the fun by wearing their Cooperalls from 1982-83. (For those who may not remember or have simply blocked them out of their minds, Cooperalls were long hockey pants, kind of like roller hockey pants, that the Flyers and the Hartford Whalers wore for one season in 1982-83. A failed NHL uniform experiment to say the least.)
One scoring change from the Los Angeles game on Sunday, as Joseph Blandisi was credited with the lone goal of the game. For Blandisi, it is his fifth of the season and not unexpected either, as replays clearly showed that he had tipped the puck in.
The goaltending matchup was the same as Saturday, as Cory Schneider faced off with Michal Neuvirth. Schneider made 20 saves on 25 shots faced. Neuvirth saw 24 Devil shots and made 21 saves. Cory did not play bad, it was just one of those “clunkers” (as MSG+’s Deb Placey called it) of a game for the Devils overall.
The first period was a wild one to say the least. Right off the bat, Stephen Gionta gets bumped into the boards and left holding his right arm. He drew a penalty, as Nick Schultz went off for interference. He would miss the rest of the game with what the team is calling an upper body injury. The Devils would be down a forward from here on out.
Philly got the first good chance of the game when they hit the post on a power play they drew a few minutes later when Tyler Kennedy was called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass.
Things got really crazy when the Flyers’ Radko Gudas drew a match penalty – he was kicked out of the game and the Devils had five minutes on the power play – for a predatory and violent hit to the head of Bobby Farnham.
The Devils would seem to convert right away when Adam Henrique scored. Philly immediately challenged on the grounds of goalie interference. The call on the ice was overturned, as the replay showed Lee Stempniak bump Neuvirth inside the blue paint. The goal was waved off, Philly kept their timeout and the wind was taken out of the Devils’ sails. Henrique would immediately follow up by missing a wide open net.
To compound all of that, Stempniak hit both posts on a shot that came right out of the goal without ever crossing the goal line. So they missed an opportunity there too.
They finally broke through right after that play when at 12:01; Reid Boucher took the puck along the half wall and gave it to John Moore at the point. He fired and the rebound came right out to Kennedy at the bottom of the far faceoff circle. He beat Neuvirth for his first goal since last March when he was a member of the Islanders.
The Goudas penalty had given the Devils the momentum. He is a player who plays on the edge and the officials are always scrutinizing what he is doing on the ice.
Unfortunately for the Devils, the momentum picked up here would not last.
At 17:23, Shayne Gostisbehere continued his historic rookie point scoring streak when he beat Cory for his 11th goal of the season from Brayden Schenn and Claude Giroux. It was now tied up at one apiece. This goal appeared to come off a play where Gostisbehere was offside, but replays showed that he just kept the puck in the Devils’ zone and was very much onside. A precision play that put led to a game tying goal.
The second period was just as wild, getting started with coincidental roughing minors to Adam Larsson and Schenn. The Flyers took a lot of penalties in this game, but it was a Devils penalty that would tip the momentum firmly towards the Flyers side.
Kyle Palmieri went off for holding Giroux and Schenn would capitalize on this power play, scoring from Wayne Simmonds and Giroux. Schenn, Simmonds and Giroux would all have multi-point games for Philadelphia.
The Devils were now down 2-1 and desperately trying to get back into it. That would finally come at 9:24 of the third when the puck was moved back to Seth Helgeson at the near point. He fired a shot that was tipped by a Flyer to Jordin Tootoo at the half wall. Tootoo turned, fired and beat Neuvirth to tie the game. The Devils seemed to be back into it. Then Travis Zajac took an interference call and it all came crashing down.
Zajac is a key part of the Devils’ penalty kill (due largely to his large amount of faceoff wins) and he was now in the penalty box. Sure enough, noted Devil-killer Wayne Simmonds connected from Schenn and Giroux to give the Flyers back the lead. Simmonds is to Devils fans what Patrik Elias was to Flyers fans during the peak of his career. Just a guy who always seems to come to play against your team and score key goals at key times for his team.
From there, the floodgates opened for Philly. Nick Cousins scored from RJ Umberger and Ryan White to make it 4-2. Jakub Voracek scored from Umberger to make it 5-2.
Kyle Palmieri’s 21st of the season from David Schlemko seemed to give the Devils a sliver of hope, but a White empty net goal about 20 seconds later (from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde) put the icing on the Flyers win.
Bobby Farnham took a 10 minute misconduct and roughing call against Schultz to end the game at 18:55, but other than that, the Devils seemed flat most of the night. The Devils had lost a game for the first time this year after they had scored the first goal.
What can be said? These games happen from time to time. The Devils just need to shake it off and prepare for the Islanders on Friday at home. New Jersey got some help in the standings because Tampa Bay lost to the Sharks in regulation and the Devils will now have a chance to directly leapfrog the Isles when they face each other at the end of this week. The Devils have a rough road ahead: the Islanders followed by the Capitals and then the Rangers make up their next three, but they have shown that they can show up against the big guys and hopefully they can grab a few points from teams ahead of them in the Metro Division standings.