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PHILADELPHIA -- During the 10-game winless skid the New Jersey Devils carried into their game Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers, they thought they had been playing well enough to earn some victories, but pucks just weren't bouncing their way.
How quickly luck can change.
Ryan Carter, Matt D'Agostini and Adam Henrique each scored a goal, and Martin Brodeur stopped all 23 shots he faced as the Devils won 3-0, keeping alive their flickering hopes for a Stanley Cup Playoff spot while possibly snuffing out the Flyers'.
The Devils outshot the Flyers 31-23, the eighth straight game they've outshot their opponent. New Jersey held Philadelphia to 14 shots in the final 40 minutes and killed off two power plays.
"That's the kind of effort we've been putting out for a while, we just haven't gotten rewarded," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "At the end of two [periods] I thought we could have had three or four goals and we're sitting at 1-0. Those thoughts creep into your head, 'Here we go again,' [but] we found a way in the third. Guys deserve a win."
The Devils had been 0-6-4 in 10 games entering Thursday, a stretch that saw them drop from seventh to 12th in the Eastern Conference. The win Thursday jumps them past the Flyers into 11th, six points behind the eighth-place New York Rangers, with five games remaining, including one Sunday at Madison Square Garden, plus another date at MSG on the final day of the regular season.
Prior to that, the Devils play at the Florida Panthers on Saturday, a team they're 1-0-1 against this season.
"The main focus now is one at time," Carter said. "That was the mandate going into [Thursday]. That was the mandate: Win it and go from there. We've got Florida next on the docket and that's where we're at."
Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov made 28 saves, but it wasn't enough to keep Philadelphia's two-game win streak from ending. And with the Rangers defeating the Panthers on Thursday, it left the Flyers seven points out of a playoff spot with four games remaining.
"After we lost four in a row last week, the writing was on the wall and somehow we found a way to dig in and scrap a couple games," Flyers forward Danny Briere said. "That's what we have to do. It doesn't matter. There are four games left. Being a professional you have to leave it all out there. I think the guys are ready to do that no matter where we are in the standings. It's frustrating, it's disappointing, but we're getting paid to do that so there is no reason for us to not give it all we have left."
One of the big problems for the Devils during their skid was a lack of offense. They had 16 goals in 10 games, and had been shut out in two straight entering Thursday.
The goal drought finally was snapped at 146:13 when Carter scored at 5:36 of the second period.
Flyers defenseman Erik Gustafsson tried dumping a puck from center ice into the Devils zone, but under heavy pressure from Steve Bernier he fanned on the attempt. Stephen Gionta jumped on the loose puck and carried it into the Philadelphia end along the right-wing boards. He spotted Carter driving to the net through the middle of the ice and hit him with a pass. Carter took one stride and snapped a wrist shot from the left circle past Bryzgalov.
"There was a big lift," DeBoer said of the reaction on the bench after Carter's goal. "There was a big cheer. It's been a while. We haven't scored the first goal … four times in the last 22 or 23 games. That's a big part of our game. It hasn't been for lack of quick starts. We just haven't had puck luck."
It marked the first time since March 30 the Devils played with a lead.
"It was kind of like, not only for myself but for the rest of us, to get the lead and play with it was the monkey off the back," Carter said. "It has been a while, but it's kind of like old times and we knew what to do when it was 1-0. We shut them down, Marty in net stood tall and that's a good win for us."
It was Brodeur's second shutout of the season -- both against Philadelphia -- and his 11th against the Flyers, his most against any team. He didn't have to do much work over the last two periods to secure No. 121 of his career.
"The second and third period they totally took over the game," Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said. "It was almost like a man playing with kids. We lost pretty much every battle. When you do that, you're not going to win games."
The best chance the Flyers had didn't even result in Brodeur needing to make a save. Early in the second, Matt Read bumped Patrik Elias off the puck at the Flyers' blue line and started an odd-man rush with Wayne Simmonds. Read raced into the New Jersey end and pulled up in the slot. Rather than shoot the puck, though, he waited too long, then tried to force a pass through the slot to Simmonds. By then the Devils had recovered and Peter Harrold was able to tip the pass away.
"That was weird," Brodeur said. "He came in and he was looking at me, looking at me, looking around. I finally went down on one knee and I said, 'All right, make a decision, you're running out of time.' He did, so it was a good play by [Harrold] to stand his ground. Both of us were in good position, so he ran out of room."
Moments later Carter scored and New Jersey had all the momentum.
The Flyers momentarily thought they had tied the game at 9:04 of the second when a Kurtis Foster shot bounced off the Devils' David Clarkson to the right side of the New Jersey net, and Jakub Voracek knocked it in with his skate. Referees immediately waved off the goal, ruling Voracek used a distinct kicking motion to put the puck in the net, and replay review upheld the call.
Brodeur said he was sure the referees were right, but the way the Devils' luck had been going, he had a bad feeling.
"I turned around and saw it right away, but with what's going on … especially when they went to Toronto, I thought, 'Here we go,'" he said. "But they made the right call on that."
The Flyers had another chance early in the third, when Marek Zidlicky was sent off for cross-checking, but Philadelphia managed one shot on the man-advantage.
D'Agostini then scored an insurance goal off a nice play by Jacob Josefson in the neutral zone. He got underneath Flyers defenseman Oliver Lauridsen to poke the puck away and blindly threw a backhand pass to D'Agostini alone on the right side. He skated unchecked into the right circle and snapped a shot between Bryzgalov's pads at 14:10.
Henrique closed the scoring with an empty-net goal with 1:13 remaining.
"It's one win but it feels good to get rewarded for one win," Devils defenseman Andy Greene said. "When you've been so close so many times here lately, it just feels good. It's a relief. Now we just enjoy this here for the next little bit and get ready for Saturday."
|Jakub Voracek Holding against Peter Harrold|
|Brayden Schenn Tripping against Stephen Gionta|
|Henrik Tallinder Holding against Wayne Simmonds|
|Adam Henrique Slashing against Wayne Simmonds|
|Wayne Simmonds Roughing against Adam Henrique|
|Oliver Lauridsen Fighting (maj) against David Clarkson|
|David Clarkson Fighting (maj) against Oliver Lauridsen|
|Marek Zidlicky Cross checking against Daniel Briere|
|Wayne Simmonds Slashing against Stephen Gionta|
|Wayne Simmonds Slashing against Ryan Carter|