For the second time in three nights, the Philadelphia Flyers rallied from a two-goal deficit to knock off the New Jersey Devils. Unlike Monday when Mike Richards sealed the deal with a third-period goal, the Flyers delivered the knockout punch in overtime on Wednesday.
Simon Gagne circled in the Devils' zone uncontested before unleashing a wrist shot from between the circles that beat goalie Martin Brodeur 3:27 into OT to give the Flyers a 3-2 win and a sweep of their home-and-home series with their Atlantic Division rivals.
"Gags had a heck of a shift and scored a really big goal," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "It was a dominating shift. He was on the puck, dug it up again, made moves and dug it up again and made moves and finally got to a spot where he could let go and he let it fly."
The goal was Gagne's first in 13 games.
"It's been tough," Gagne said. "I've gotten some chances but I still haven't been able to score goals. The team needs goals to win hockey games. It's been on my mind the whole time. This is definitely going to take that big monkey off my back."
Jeff Carter and Aaron Asham scored for Philadelphia, which beat the Devils for the fourth time in five games to wrap up its first season series win against New Jersey since going 3-2-0 with a tie in 2003-04. The teams play once more in March - a game that's likely to draw more than the announced crowd of 5,580 fans who braved a blizzard to get to the Prudential Center in Newark.
"I think it is a good test to show what we are made of, where this team has come from and where this team needs to get to," Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger said. "We certainly don't want to make it a habit of getting down 2-0 in games and hopefully, that will be the last. Like I said, you don't do this against the New Jersey Devils too often."
New Jersey, meanwhile, has lost 11 of 15 and has seen its division lead over second-place Pittsburgh shrink to just one point.
"We found a way to lose. We just found a way to lose -- it's that simple," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. "We talk all the time about having long shifts. In the room before games, before practices and behind the bench. And we still have long shifts and it hurt us on the very last goal. We're tired. And when you're tired, you can't run, you can't skate and can't chase anybody. You just stand."
The Flyers spotted the Devils the first two goals of the game before rallying to tie. Carter connected for the equalizer, getting his 24th goal of the season off a left-circle snap shot that beat Brodeur to the long side 13:47 into the second.
"I think (the comebacks) go with how we have been playing, the turnaround," Carter said. "Earlier, down 2-0, we were done. When we were in that stretch it was tough. It is something that has built over time."
Brodeur, who yielded three of more goals for the sixth straight time and is 4-8-2 in his last 14 games, is puzzled by the recent slide.
"When you're not doing well, guys are doing more individual things to get out of it and sometimes it goes negatively," Brodeur said. "I think game-in and game-out, we've been losing the same way. But we have to hit it soon enough because we don't want to allow teams back close to us. We gave ourselves a cushion in the standings, but it's going down."
The Devils played without forward Zach Parise, who practiced on Tuesday, but was listed as a late scratch with an upper-body injury. It marked the first time since Dec. 23, 2007, when he was sidelined with the flu, that Parise missed a game.
The Devils were also without defenseman Anssi Salmela (upper-body) and defenseman Bryce Salvador departed late in the first period after getting hit with a high stick in his own end.
Ilya Kovalchuk, meanwhile, is still looking for his first goal since being acquired last Thursday -- he joined the Devils having scored 31 with the Atlanta Thrashers. Despite finishing with five shots in 26:27 of ice time against the Flyers, Lemaire thought Kovalchuk was tired.
"I did not think this was Ilya's best game," Lemaire said. "I think he looked a little tired -- maybe the travel got to him." Kovalchuk has two assists, 23 shots and a minus-2 rating in four games with the Devils.
The Devils were given a two-man advantage for 25 seconds midway through the third when Flyers defenseman Matt Carle was whistled for holding in front of his net, but the Flyers killed it off to keep the game squared at 2-2. The Devils finished 0-for-3 on the power-play and are 4-for-51 in the last 18 games.
"(The power play) is something that's not been perfect," captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We're trying to get used to new situations. We have to find that next edge of sacrificing ourselves in front of the net and putting ourselves into those tough situations -- getting some dirty ones. We have to find a way to get dirty and make it happen that way."
With starter Ray Emery nursing a left hip injury, Michael Leighton made his fourth straight start in goal for the Flyers and was particularly busy in the third period when the Devils outshot the visitors, 7-1. He finished the game with 21 saves, including 16 in the final two periods and overtime.
The Devils, who have wasted two-goal leads in four of their last five games, took a 2-0 edge in the first on goals by Travis Zajac and Rob Niedermayer. Zajac connected for his 18th of the season on a shot from the left circle that squeezed through Leighton's pads just 45 seconds into the game.
Niedermayer's goal, his first in 13 games, came off a deflection in front of the net at 8:01. After pushing an offensive-zone draw into the right-wing corner, Rod Pelley returned a pass to Niedermayer. The veteran forward then threw a spinaround backhander from the bottom of the right circle that deflected off Leighton's pad and hit defenseman Kimmo Timonen's left leg before going high over Leighton's right shoulder and into the net.
The Flyers made it 2-1 just 32 seconds later on Arron Asham's rocket from the right faceoff dot that deflected off the shin of Devils defenseman Andy Greene and past Brodeur on the short side. The Flyers nearly evened the score with 5:15 remaining while on the power-play when Scott Hartnell's tip off a 2-on-1 with Carter was denied by Brodeur's left glove right along the goal line.
Referee Marc Joannette, in fact, went to the replay to confirm the puck didn't cross the goal line after entering Brodeur's mitt.
But the Flyers tied the game on Carter's goal and spoiled the night for the hardy few who made it to the game when Gagne scored in OT - leaving the Devils shaking their heads.
"Guys are not feeling confident about themselves," Brodeur said. "It's been a little tougher to get going both offensively and defensively. We're getting back bounces. It's just a matter of time."
|Travis Zajac (18) ASST: Brian Rolston (13), Mark Fraser (3)|
1 - 0 NJD
|Rob Niedermayer (7) ASST: Rod Pelley (6)|
2 - 0 NJD
|Arron Asham (7) ASST: Claude Giroux (22), Braydon Coburn (11)|
2 - 1 NJD
|Jeff Carter (24) ASST: Daniel Briere (18), Scott Hartnell (19)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Simon Gagne (7) ASST: Kimmo Timonen (26), Chris Pronger (33)|
3 - 2 PHI
|Daniel Briere Slashing against Colin White|
|Colin White Tripping against Daniel Briere|
|Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond Interference against Lukas Krajicek|
|Martin Brodeur Delaying Game - Illegal play by goalie|
|Braydon Coburn Interference against Vladimir Zharkov|
|Matthew Carle Holding the stick against Vladimir Zharkov|
|Patrik Elias Hooking against Kimmo Timonen|