A flurry of offense late in the first period that spilled over into the second helped the New Jersey Devils defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 6-4 in a Saturday matinee at Wells Fargo Center.
Four goals in less than three minutes – including two in the final 57 seconds of the opening period – helped the Devils blow this contest open early and, after a late surge by the Flyers, collect a third straight victory. The win, at least temporarily, moves New Jersey ahead of Ottawa into sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
It was another disappointing effort at home for the Flyers. Philadelphia is now 12-8-4 at Wells Fargo this season, and the 76 goals the Flyers have allowed in their own building this season are 27th in the League.
Kurtis Foster put New Jersey in front just 3:05 into the first period with a 5-on-3 goal. Patrck Elias sent him a diagonal pass at the left point from behind the net to right of the Philadelphia goal.
The Devils took control of this game at the end of the period.
Seconds after an apparent penalty against New Jersey that wasn't called, Ilya Kovalchuk made it a two-goal lead at 19:03 with a shorthanded shot off the rush for his 21st goal of the season.
"I'm pretty sure it's a penalty," Philadelphia forward Claude Giroux said. "It killed the momentum."
Dainius Zubrus made it 3-0 in the final second of the period, backhanding the rebound of a Anton Volchenkov shot past Sergei Bobrovsky before the buzzer sounded.
New Jersey continued the onslaught at the start of the second period. Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell took a penalty after Zubrus' goal and was in the box when Zach Parise made it 4-0 just 38 seconds in. Alexei Ponikarovsky pushed the lead to five with a goal from the top of the crease 59 seconds later.
Steve Bernier, recalled by the Devils on Monday, set up Ponikarovsky with a sweet pass from behind the net for his first point of the season. New Jersey's four goals came in a span of 2:34 – and the Devils would need all of them by the time this contest was over.
The Flyers continued to afford the Devils power-play opportunities during the second period, and Foster made them pay again at 8:22. Foster's tally was his fourth of the season, and New Jersey's third extra-man goal of the game.
It was redemption of a sort for Foster, who was benched for the second half of Thursday's game after a misplay led to a shorthanded goal in the second period.
"I had to watch (Thursday night)," Foster said to Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger. "It gets you revved up for today – I think a little more than normal."
Kovalchuk earned a Gordie Howe hat trick in the game with a goal, two assists and a fight. He dropped the gloves with Philadelphia's Bryanden Schenn after Zac Rinaldo slew-footed Parise, and Kovalchuk knocked the Flyers rookie to the ice with a hefty right hook.
"Hopefully the word spreads you don't want to mess with this guy," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "He's a big, tough, strong man. I like why he fought. It wasn't for himself, but for Zach."
Despite being down 6-0 after 40 minutes, the Flyers refused to quit. Wayne Simmonds got the Flyers on the board at 3:58 of the third, and then a trio of tallies in a little more than four minutes have them a chance.
Jaromir Jagr, Giroux and Jakob Voracek cut New Jersey's lead to two goals, but Johan Hedberg prevented a collapse for the Devils. Philadelphia outshot New Jersey 24-1 in the final period and 41-31 in the contest. Bobrovsky allowed six goals on 23 shots before being replaced by Ilya Bryzgalov.
"First two periods, I was embarrassed to be a Philadelphia Flyer," Hartnell said. "We came out with no energy, no intensity."