NEWARK, N.J. -- The Flyers probably couldn't tell you who skates on their top line, and that's a good thing.
Philadelphia's No. 1 line changes on a nightly basis, and Thursday at Prudential Center the title belonged to Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere and Ville Leino. Hartnell and Briere scored two goals apiece and Leino had three primary assists as the trio led the Flyers back from a pair of one-goal deficits to a 4-2 win over the last-place New Jersey Devils.
Philadelphia moved within one point of first in the Eastern Conference with 55 points. Pittsburgh, which has played two more games than the Flyers, picked up its 56th point in a shootout loss at Montreal despite playing without Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury.
"We've got four great centermen with (Claude) Giroux playing the wing; it's nice to have that problem," Hartnell said, referring to Briere, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Giroux. "I know a lot of teams would take any one of those four guys and put him as their top centerman. It's impressive."
The story couldn't be any less impressive in the home dressing room in Newark. The Devils have lost six of seven since Jacques Lemaire took over for the fired John MacLean on Dec. 23. They've lost nine of their last 10 games and 14 of 16. They've won only two of their last 10 at home.
Martin Brodeur dressed as the backup again Thursday, marking the first time in seven years he's done that in consecutive games. Captain Jamie Langenbrunner was not in the lineup or even the building because he was reportedly waiting at home to hear about a trade that is expected to go down soon.
"The only thing I know is before the game Lou (Lamoriello) told me Jamie won't be playing," Lemaire said of the Langenbrunner trade rumors. "That's all I know. Then I put another guy on the line."
Briere's 19th goal of the season was the difference Thursday. He beat Devils goalie Johan Hedberg from the slot 2:48 into the third period after being set up by Leino's saucer pass that sailed over Travis Zajac's stick.
Hartnell scored twice in the final five minutes of the second period, sandwiching his 11th and 12th goals of the season around David Clarkson's first in 18 games to send the teams to the dressing rooms even at 2-2 following 40 minutes.
"(Leino's) an unselfish player when he gets moving that puck around, and it's nice to play with a guy like that that is always looking for a pass," Hartnell said. "We were able to play get a couple tonight. He played really well, one of the big reasons we kept coming from behind to win."
Briere had to get stitches in his right hand midway through the second period as a result of a slash by Andy Greene, but he was on the ice for all four of the Flyers' goals. He capped the scoring with his 20th of the season 11:34 into the third period when his attempted pass to Hartnell during a 2-on-1 rush off defenseman Colin White's skate and went into the net. Some of the visiting fans threw hats on the ice thinking it was Hartnell's goal and thus the sixth hat trick of his career, but replays clearly showed Hartnell never touched the puck.
"That line, they all bring something different," coach Peter Laviolette said. "Hartsy brings a little bit of the power that drives that line. Danny Briere brings the goals and Ville makes the plays. I think they're all capable of doing all those things, but there is a good mixture there in the way they do it."
Hedberg and the Devils were again left questioning themselves and the lively boards at the Prudential Center.
Hartnell made it 1-1 with 4:14 to play in the second period when he benefitted from an odd carom off the end boards. Leino rifled the puck down the ice and with Hedberg out of the net, the puck somehow hit off the boards and slid diagonally into the slot where Hartnell was waiting to tap it in.
Minnesota defenseman Clayton Stoner scored the game-winning goal against the Devils on Tuesday night when his clearing attempt hit a glass stanchion and went straight into the net.
You won't find two more obvious signs of the bounces not going the Devils' way.
"I don't know how to explain it either," Hedberg told NHL.com. "We try to do the right things and I try to play the game the way I know how to play it, but it's a funny game some nights, a lot of nights for us nowadays. It takes bounces, goes here and there, and it finds ways to end up in our net. I don't know. It's frustrating. That's the word that sums it up."
New Jersey regained the lead quickly when Greene sprung Clarkson for a breakaway goal with 2:20 left. It wasn't called a goal by the on-ice officials, but as soon as play stopped they went for a review and video replays clearly showed that Clarkson's shot went in and out of the net quickly, hitting the back bar rather than the crossbar.
However, Leino and Hartnell hooked up again just 74 seconds later to make it 2-2. This time, Leino carried the puck into the corner before slotting a pretty backhanded pass to Hartnell, who one-timed it in from just above the blue paint with 1:06 to play in the period.
"We scored that 2-1 goal and that's the pressure point in the game -- we need to come out and make sure we're playing solid right after that to take control of the game, and it doesn't happen," Hedberg said. "Is it a confidence thing? Maybe. Whatever it is, we have to get better at it. We all know it. It's everything from making a save to making a play. Everybody has to chip in."
Everyone has been chipping in for the Flyers. Thursday they just got a little more from the Briere line.
"When those three guys are skating and working for each other they're pretty difficult to play against," Laviolette said.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
|Dainius Zubrus (5) ASST: Anton Volchenkov (2), Patrik Elias (19)|
1 - 0 NJD
|Scott Hartnell (11) ASST: Ville Leino (18), Matthew Carle (18)|
1 - 1 Tie
|David Clarkson (5) ASST: Andy Greene (10)|
2 - 1 NJD
|Scott Hartnell (12) ASST: Ville Leino (19), Kimmo Timonen (16)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Daniel Briere (19) ASST: Ville Leino (20), Matthew Carle (19)|
3 - 2 PHI
|Daniel Briere (20) ASST: NONE|
4 - 2 PHI
|Mark Fraser Cross checking against Ville Leino|
|Andy Greene Slashing against Daniel Briere|
|Jeff Carter Holding against Mark Fraser|
|Colin White Slashing against Andreas Nodl|
|Colin White Roughing against James van Riemsdyk|